Q4 2019 Healthcare Consumer Market Research

Understanding Your Healthcare Consumer

It doesn’t matter about your healthcare marketing department’s specific goals, or the goals you’ve set for a specific hospital marketing campaign. In both cases, it’s critical to understand the audience who is pivotal to your success. Because you can’t truly raise brand awareness, improve reputation and brand image, strengthen your patients’ mobile and digital experience, nor engage them through your healthcare content marketing without understanding their desires, beliefs and behaviors. Which calls for healthcare consumer market research.

Similarly, it’s difficult to set tangible success metrics for a hospital marketing campaign when you’re not dialed-in on your consumer. Whether you want to track incoming leads via phone or form submission, organic search performance, social media engagement, online reviews & reputation or customer acquisition cost, knowing your customer is essential to real success.

Q4 2019 Healthcare Consumer Market Research

As specialists focused on healthcare and wellness, we’re continually taking the pulse of today’s health-minded consumer – to expand our understanding into who they are, what influences and drives them, and how they behave – to help our clients use their brands’ unique clout to more meaningfully connect with consumers and bring about positive change.

Our Q4 2019 Healthcare Consumer Market Research survey focuses on how health system, hospital and physician group marketing teams can best engage with today’s active healthcare consumer who has more power and choice about where, when and how they receive their elective care. Respondents were:

  • predominately between the ages of 30-44, and 45-60 (44% each respectively), with 7% of respondents greater than age 60 and 5% between ages 18-29
  • split 52% females and 48% males
  • represented equally across the country, with greatest number of responses coming from those in South Atlantic, Pacific, Middle Atlantic, East North Central and East South Central

Some of our more interesting findings include:

Awareness of Healthcare Services

Content continues to be king. Reflecting how consumers today want to receive and how they consume brand information, respondents stated that they’re most interested in learning about a health system, hospital or physician group’s services through content they post on their website (64%).

Beyond raising awareness, the right content (that is genuine and giving) also allows always-on healthcare consumers to deepen their engagement with a healthcare provider organization and its brand at all stages of the purchase funnel.  This content is a win-win proposition, as an organization’s reputation and web “real estate” will increase gradually over time as they publish more content, and as these factors increase, the value of each piece they produce will also increase.

Of note, the second preferred awareness-building tactic was content they see on the internet (42%), followed by advertising (41%) and community events (37%).

Earning Consumer Trust

When asked how a health system, hospital or physician group can earn consumer trust, top three responses reflected consumer-focused benefits, i.e. treat me like an individual (73%), be transparent about pricing (61%) and provide a more personalized experience (49%).  It’s important to acknowledge that these trust-building actions are in a large degree driven from outside the marketing department – so it speaks to the need for cross-functional teams to work together to align promises and delivery.

And in an environment where there is a crisis of trust, it’s important to have a proactive strategy to inspire trust. In a survey conducted by Contagious,  77% of respondents in the US say they only buy products and services from brands they can trust. And more than half of everyone surveyed said that this has actually become more important over the past few years.

Every marketer should realize that every purchase, large or small, is ultimately based on a question we ask ourselves: is this brand trustworthy? In healthcare, this question becomes paramount.

To read more about building trust with today’s healthcare consumer, you can refer back to our Q3 Healthcare Consumer survey.

Researching a New Healthcare Provider

The top two sources for researching a new healthcare provider were overwhelmingly their website (68%) and family and friends (69%).

Related to website, this in and of itself is not surprising. But underneath this answer reinforces the importance of a holistic digital strategy that considers 1) organic search performance, i.e. the list of links that appear below the ads whenever you type a question into Google; 2) ensuring that your website (and all other digital platforms) delivers the experience, information and interactivity that are important to prospective customers; and 3) meeting ADA Compliance guidelines for website, mobile and app accessibility.

Related to family and friends, the most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. According to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 83% of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family.

Most influential Influencers

When it comes to the types of influencers most influential in the choice of a healthcare provider, the overwhelming choices are everyday people like me (82%) and industry experts (70%); garnering more than five times the responses for bloggers and social media stars (13%, respectively).

Results confirm the importance of authenticity and the believability factor of everyday people we trust. We also know that consumers are becoming less likely to click-through, share, like and comment on posts made by big-name influencers who, many believe, are being bank-rolled by brands.

Suggestions About Advertising

Nearly two-thirds of respondents suggested talk to me like real people talk to each other (62%), followed by connect with me on a more human level (50%).  Both of these responses reflect important sources of trust, as we’re hardwired to trust those who are familiar and similar to us — those who we can see ourselves in and with whom we experience a shared set of values and goals.

However, survey respondents also reminded us of how they prioritize our advertising. Over half pointed out that experience is more important to me than advertising (56%), while others stated realize that valuable content is more important to me than advertising (36%).

Earning Patient Loyalty

Responses reflect the importance of healthcare providers delivering the benefits of personalization and proactive health support. Top two responses to how providers can earn patient loyalty were treat me like an individual, not a common patient (76%) and help me to be smarter about my health and wellness (51%).

As we’ve come to benefit from more personalized experiences across all categories (from technology, to retail, hospitality and beauty), expectations are no different for healthcare. We also know from our firm’s work across the healthcare and wellness continuum, that we have a broader-based view of health and that across generations, we’re living a healthier lifestyle.

Interestingly, the feedback about “treating me like an individual and not a common patient”,  aligns with the beliefs and practices of Dr. Patrick Flynn, CEO of Green Bay Wisconsin-based The Wellness Way who states in his book I Disagree, “that when it comes to health, common does not mean normal.”

Improving Patient Experience

Convenience knows no boundaries. Over half of respondents stated make it more convenient for me to get my care (58%) and let me communicate with my doctors whenever I want (55%).

At the same time that we were fielding this survey,  we found this interview on Becker’s with Henry Ford Health CXO David Duvall on creating memorable journeys for patients. His interview (partially shared here) supports and expands on our findings:

Our view should truly be end-to-end. A person’s wellness journey begins long before she walks through our doors or before he makes his first appointment. It begins with how our customers perceive us before they make the decision to trust us with their care or their family member’s care. Once that decision is made, we enter into what we hope is a lifelong commitment to create an ongoing experience that is heartfelt and personalized, seamless and convenient.

We look forward to sharing our Q1 2020 Trajectory Healthcare Consumer Market Research survey findings. Until then, wishing everyone a joyous holiday season.


Since 1999, our specialist branding and marketing agency has combined healthcare and wellness industry expertise with outside category inspiration to produce strong and lasting results for our clients. Reach out for a conversation if you need strategic guidance and new creative thinking to better connect with today’s healthcare consumers.


Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.