Healthcare is quite an unique industry, as are it’s consumers. Healthcare consumers share similarities with consumers within other industries, but also considerable differences that healthcare marketers must acknowledge.
Although healthcare consumers have various unique characteristics from those within other industries, healthcare consumers also share various similarities.
Many healthcare services are elective (i.e. laser eye surgery). Thus, consumers have the option to consider wants vs. needs and decide whether to pursue a service or not.
Healthcare consumers’ demand can be influenced by many factors such as price or type of treatment. For example, in retail, if the price of a high end product is cut by half, its demand would increase significantly as the lower price would attract buyers. This is considered as elastic demand.
Elasticity of demand is the measure of the change in demand of a product or service in relativity to the change in its price. If demand for a product or service increases or decreases based off of the increase or decrease in its price, then the product s considered to have an elastic demand. If the demand for a product or service is unaffected by the change in price, then the product is considered to be inelastic.
Payment for Services
Although in many cases when medical services are paid by third parties, many are paid out of pocket by the consumer. Whether a consumer has an insurance policy that includes a high deductible or co-insurance responsibility, or a consumer is self pay and is solely responsible the payment of services, consumers’ ability to pay for services greatly influences their demand for them, even if they are medically necessary.
For elective services that are not considered medical necessary, consumers usually have to pay for the service mostly out of pocket, which will certainly affect its demand. In a booming economy, demand for such services would increase, as in a slumping economy demand would decrease.
Lack of Buyer Discretion
Consumers in healthcare rarely determine their need for services, as consumers within other industries usually determine their need for products and services. Healthcare services, which are consumed by the patient, are usually ordered by a physician. This is unlike any other industry, as the patient is prescribed a service that they must comply with.
Knowledge of Price
One of the most prevalent differences between healthcare consumers and other consumers is that healthcare consumers’ costs are usually covered by third parties (insurance). Because third party payers pay for most of a patient’s medical services, patients themselves are not usually involved in or even aware of the price of service. Patients rarely even have access to pricing information for services.
Evaluating Quality of Service
Most healthcare consumers do not experience the healthcare system until they have a need for services. Thus, when consumers evaluate services they receive, they form their opinions through subjective observations such customer service and the cleanliness of the facility. This is considerably different for consumers within other industries as they form their opinions about products through objective observations such as the quality of the product and the ease and effectiveness of its use.
Knowledge of Services
Healthcare consumers typically have limited knowledge regarding the services they are to receive, as other consumers are usually well informed about the products and services they are pursuing. Most consumers in other industries seek as much information about products to compare one from another.
Because of this, healthcare consumers usually lack the ability to evaluate the quality of service they receive, as other consumers very well can evaluate the quality of the product or service they receive.
Healthcare services are usually NOT marketed directly to healthcare consumers as they are not the ones that choose which services to receive in most cases. This is unlike other products and services which ARE directly marketed to the consumer