If you haven’t already, download the full Humanizing Brand Experience Vol 6 report. To learn about all of the  consumer segments that emerged from this year’s report, read our recent article: Exploring Humanizing Brand Vol 6 findings: Consumer segmentation.

If you thought there was no possible way we could add to the list of pressures that health, care and wellness brands are facing, think again. Because in the face of some of the most significant business and operational challenges to ever confront our industry, we can also confirm that consumer sentiment around avoiding the doctor is at an all-time high.

The segment least interested in seeing us is also growing fastest.

Delaying care seems to have spiked, with significantly more people avoiding the doctor even when they know they need to visit. A staggering 17% of consumers in the U.S. now qualify as ”Doctor Dodgers” based on our segmentation—up from 11% last year. This is no longer about category engagement. This is about category avoidance.

Look at some of these shifts in national consumer sentiment year over year. More people are only going to the doctor when they’re sick, meaning they’re less focused on their wellness. Fewer people are proactive with their health, resulting in a reactionary cycle of catchup for both consumer and provider brands. More people are citing lack of time as the reason for dodging, which reflects the perception and the reality of how challenging it is for people to get through your virtual or physical door. Every single measure, both viewed from the negative side and the positive side of the statement, reflects a growing population less and less inclined to engage with us at a time when we need them more than ever. And those who have chronic conditions and now-emergent health issues they deprioritized in the pandemic need us more than ever too.

Understanding the drivers of the Doctor Dodgers

So, let’s unpack the why behind the dodging. Not surprisingly, cost is and has been a major factor for delaying care almost as frequently as it was in pre-pandemic 2020. Our present-day economic volatility for our many consumers across the country only amplifies that.

Further, as health, care and wellness leaders are quick to remind their peers across the industry, the delivery system has less control than it would like on the cost to patients. It’s an element of the experience that is not fully controlled or controllable.

However, the other reasons are experience-related attributes that we 100% have the ability to control: people don’t like it, it’s difficult to get an appointment, and it’s too time-consuming.

These are areas where our organizations have the opportunity to change behavior by thinking differently about what and how we deliver.

Can you answer why your consumers and your communities don’t like going to the doctor? If you don’t have real data on which you can act, step one is to simply ask them. You have a huge portfolio of consumer insights at your fingertips to help illuminate the pain points that might be unique to you and your market.

Across your experience, do you know where you’re creating the most difficulty in providing appointment options or where you are wasting your consumers’ time? Building a journey map of your experience—either at an overall, a service line or a facility level—represents a direct path to defining the pain points that are directly resulting in people delaying care.

Doctor Dodgers are everywhere

No market is immune to the presence of this avoidant segment of the U.S. population. We see the Doctor Dodger across the country, which should influence how you think about your population. Do you know what could influence or impact your Doctor Dodgers? A first step to understand them better might be to know where they’re coming from.

Overall, delaying care has spiked and a growing population is less engaged with us at a time when we need them, and they need us, more than ever. While there are a few reasons this is happening that are beyond our control, there are others that are fully controllable. As healthcare brand and experience leaders we have the opportunity to change behavior by thinking differently about how we deliver care and there’s never been a more critical time to do so.

For more robust insights around Doctor Dodgers and overall healthcare consumer segmentation, download the full report.

Interested in learning more about the different segments and how you could leverage our segmentation to personalize outreach and communications strategies for your audiences? We’d love to have a conversation. Reach out to Kim Hofland at khofland@monigle.com.

Justin Wartell
July 27, 2023 By Justin Wartell