Let’s do a little check-in.

Have you changed since the pandemic?

My suspicion? Probably so. 

Let me guess. You probably spend more time on your digital device. Health is more top-of-mind for you than before—partly due to the fact that your pants might be fitting a bit more snug these days. (Don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.) You probably tune into health news reporting more than before. (Which says a lot, considering you’re in health care.) 

You’re also probably feeling every bit of the stress and strain of living through a pandemic.

Why am I telling you this? Because your health audiences have changed since the pandemic, too.

In small, significant ways. 

And in large, paradigm-shifting ways.

That’s really, really important to know if you are in the business of communicating and engaging health audiences and consumers.

Prior to COVID-19, Hailey Sault developed yearly audience persona models that represent the four generations of health care consumers: Gen Z, Millennials, Generation X and Boomers. These persona models allow us to identify the universal qualities and concerns of our health care clients, which we then customize to our client’s specific audience cohorts. 

But since March of 2020, Hailey Sault has updated our health care audience personas four times to reflect changes in consumers like:

  1. Attitudes on personal health
  2. New health challenges
  3. Prioritizing their family’s health 
  4. Media consumption habits
  5. Barriers to accessing care
  6. Ability to pay for medical care 
  7. Attitudes on diversity, equality and inclusion

Let’s double-click on each of these changes so that you can make better human connections with the audiences you seek to engage. . 

ATTITUDES ON PERSONAL HEALTH

As health care marketers and communicators, our job is to share helpful and insightful health resources to our consumer audiences. Even when that means communicating things that our audiences would prefer not to think about (like screenings and unhealthy habits that lead to chronic disease). 

Yet for almost a year and a half, people have been riveted to news and content about health. Fear is a powerful motivator. You now have an audience who is primed to receive content and resources to help empower their health journey. Are you leveraging this rare opportunity to create new connections, conversations and engagement with your health audiences? 

NEW HEALTH CHALLENGES

Pundits and public health policy people will be debating the benefits and unintended consequences of the lockdowns for years to come. One thing is certain: your health consumers are most certainly facing new health challenges these days. 

A recent KFF study suggests 23% of women skipped a recommended medical test or treatment and 38% of women missed preventative health services in 2020. MEDPAGE TODAY shared the study and called 2020 a “Lost Year for Women’s Medical Care.” We’re facing a tsunami of undiagnosed cancer, heart disease and other disease conditions. Your health audience has new health needs—whether they know it yet or not. Does your marketing strategy address these new health challenges and how to help your audiences?

PRIORITIZING THEIR FAMILY’S HEALTH 

Female health consumers tend to prioritize their family’s health over their own. If you’re a mother or daughter of a sick, aging parent, you know what I mean. (Speaking of which, the Cleveland Clinic wrote a great article encouraging women to not think that self-care is selfish.) The pandemic didn’t change this attitude, but it did intensify mom’s desire to keep her family and loved ones well. 

How is your brand serving as a bridge to connect your female audiences with the health solutions they’re seeking: for themselves and for their loved ones? Your female audience might tune out (temporarily) to advertising and content encouraging her to return for care or take the next step in her health journey. But she’ll definitely keep an eye out for any resources that empower and improve her family’s health.

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MEDIA CONSUMPTION HABITS

According to eMarketer, the amount of time spent consuming digital media rose from 6 hours, 49 minutes per day to a whopping 7 hours, 50 minutes per day in 2020—and experts predict we’ll see modest growth in 2021. 

Has your digital strategy kept pace with consumer demand? Are you leveraging new channels and digital content tools like TikTok (don’t snicker, it works for our health care clients), Facebook’s version of Clubhouse, and Instagram Reel Ads? 

Telling great health care brand stories is one thing. But telling those stories on the platforms your audience is spending more and more of her waking life is the key to consumer engagement and utilization of your brand’s health services. 

BARRIERS TO ACCESSING CARE

Thankfully, the pandemic is beginning to recede in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean consumers are less concerned about contracting diseases. That’s why it’s no surprise that Humana just acquired Onehome as part of the booming hospital-at-home market. Health consumers have always dragged their feet going into a hospital or clinic: the parking is lousy and you wait forever to be seen. The quick spinning up of virtual health and telehealth services was a great example of health care brands acting agile in the face of a once in a century pandemic. 

Is your health brand innovating the way it delivers care so that all your health audiences can access services in the way they prefer? Sure, open-heart surgery still needs to be done in an operating room. (We’re waiting on AI to change that.) But consider all the ways your consumers would use your health brand’s services if they were more accessible and more aligned with their lives and desires?

ABILITY TO PAY FOR MEDICAL CARE

Health care costs have always been a stressor for consumers. 2020 turned the fire up on this crisis. According to HEALTHCAREDIVE, a record one in four Americans are now covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, an increase of 14% from old enrollment stats. 

Your health consumers are likely to be concerned with the cost of health care, and how to pay for treatment. How are you helping your health audiences to navigate their way to receiving care in ways they can afford?   

ATTITUDES ON DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION

If there was a blessing in the calamity and grief we experienced in 2020, it was that more and more Americans came to understand that Black and Brown people have been underserved and mistreated in our country: including in health care settings. 

I suspect you and your colleagues want nothing less than to provide an exceptional care experience for all their patients and consumers, and are making vital changes to that end. 

So let me ask you: how are your brand messaging and your audience engagement strategies aligning with your audience’s evolving attitudes on diversity, equity and inclusion? Do your campaigns reflect the rich tapestry of life experiences and points of view of your audiences? Are you engaging with multiple audience personas, and not just the stereotypical “woman, ages 25-54”? As Bono once sang, “We’re one, but we’re not the same.” Try to avoid messaging that tries to appeal to all and resonates with none. 

THE WRAP UP

We’ve all been living under great and intense pressure the last 15+ months. That pressure has had its effect on our health audiences. And those effects mean profound changes to how your consumers and patients are thinking and feeling these days. By inviting more curiosity, you can discover insights that lead to marketing strategies that engage your health audiences in new and more powerful ways. Invite your team to explore one or more of these seven changes in your health consumers to uncover insights to help your health brand to grow—and, more importantly, to help your audiences to find their way to better care and better health.  

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