Patient profile. Consumer profile. Both terms are used in the healthcare industry today. Both terms are correct. But there are subtle yet significant differences between these terms that can reveal a lot about a healthcare organization’s overall strategy and mindset.
To illustrate the differences, we need to examine how the healthcare industry has evolved over the last few decades.
Patient Profiles: The Traditional Approach
Traditionally, healthcare organizations viewed patients as simply that – patients. The focus was on medical conditions and patients were labeled based on diagnoses. Patient profiles may have factored in some demographic information such as gender, race, and income, but the emphasis was how those demographic factors influenced healthcare outcomes.
The medically focused approach to patient profiles isn’t wrong; in fact, it can be extremely useful in identifying trends to refine treatments. But profiling patients based solely on medical history and demographics does little to inform overall organization strategy, which is a problem in today’s highly competitive healthcare environment.
Fortunately, there are other aspects of patient profiling that healthcare organizations have started to explore.
Consumer Profiles: The Next Step in Patient Profiling
Without question, the healthcare industry is more competitive today than it was in recent decades. That’s led to an emphasis on patient acquisition and retention.
In order to acquire new patients (and keep them), you need to know who they are – not just in terms of their medical conditions or demographics, but in terms of who they are as consumers.
- What are their attitudes toward healthcare? Are they proactive or reactive?
- How do they like to receive information? What channels are the best way to reach them?
- What’s their lifestyle? What things do they find engaging and interesting?
This is a significant mindset shift. Understanding diagnoses and looking for medical patterns still matters, but to effectively reach and keep patients over time you need to be able to speak to them on a personal level.
That’s where consumer profiles come into play. Consumer profiles are a different type of patient profile that provide insights into your patients’ lifestyles. They can be developed at an overall level or by service line but go beyond basic demographics to help you really understand your patients.
Organizations that use consumer-oriented patient profiles are the ones that understand what it takes to win in the current healthcare environment. Even nonprofit organizations have realized that a consumer mentality can help them to generate enough margin to fund their mission of caring for those who can’t afford medical treatment. Identifying who your patients are and where others like them are located allows you to make more effective decisions in areas ranging from marketing to facilities planning.
The Bottom Line
Patient profiles have been and will continue to be important tools for healthcare organizations, but layering in consumer information makes them more actionable for today’s healthcare executives. To learn more about Buxton’s approach to the next generation of patient profiles, explore our patient profiling solution.