Individualization vs Personalization
Breaking down two must-know healthcare experience elements
If you’ve worked with us, read our Humanizing Brand Experience reports, or spent time digging into the latest trends in healthcare marketing, you’ve probably come across these terms: individualization and personalization.
Both are hot topics in the healthcare brand and experience conversation, and for good reason. They are top motivators of behavior and drivers of choice for consumers, and essential ingredients for delivering a positive healthcare experience overall. While these two terms may sound similar—and they are certainly related—they actually refer to two unique experience elements, with different implications for healthcare leadership teams.
At Monigle, we know all of this experience lingo can be confusing, so we decided to create an official breakdown for you. Read up on these two critical experience elements, so that you can understand how to make an impact at your organization.
AKA: “Makes me feel like the top priority when I’m getting care”
Individualization is one of the most important elements of a good healthcare experience. In fact, it’s the #1 emotional motivator for consumers in terms of stated importance—meaning it’s just as important as the basics of good care like quality and outcomes. As a key motivator, this is the element that healthcare brand, marketing and experience teams need to focus on first and foremost in order to make the biggest difference in driving behavior change.
Consumers had a lot to say when we asked them to tell us about the kind of care experiences that make them feel like a top priority. We heard a variety of personal stories and examples, both negative and positive, that helped us understand the key experiences that deliver on individualization. It boiled down to these four themes:
1. Spend quality time with me
In order to feel like a top priority, consumers must feel like their provider is giving them full, undivided attention throughout the appointment. When providers appear distracted, and/or appointments feel rushed, it makes consumers feel like they are not receiving individualized care.
“I think time spent, and true listening are the main components in [feeling like a top priority]. Show me that you’re here in the room with me, listening to my needs and not thinking about a previous patient or your lunch date.” – Female healthcare consumer, Midwestern U.S.
2. Get the details right
Consumers feel like a top priority when providers are knowledgeable about their medical history so that patients don’t have to repeat themselves. Recalling details about the patient (allergies, medical conditions, or even personal notes such as where the patient lives, etc.) make patients feel they are a top priority.
“I’ve always appreciated when they do little things like remembering that I don’t like lime jello and substituting something else or offering an extra pillow or blanket. Attention to such details gives you confidence that they are also circumspect with more important aspects of your care.” – Male healthcare consumer, Western U.S.
3. Respect me (and my schedule)
Consumers feel like a top priority when they believe that their time is respected throughout the care experience. Top-mentioned signs of respect included providers showing up on time to appointments, conscientious and helpful office staff, and easy scheduling and call-in prescriptions.
“I feel like top priority when I go to my chiropractor. Every employee makes me feel welcome and helpful. They take time to listen and don’t rush.” –Male health care consumer, Southern U.S.
4. Show some urgency
Consumers feel like a top priority when their condition and specific circumstances are treated with a sense of significance and urgency. Dealing with healthcare in general but especially when you have a medical issue can feel all-consuming. When providers are perceived as going the extra mile to solve problems quickly, people feel like they are receiving individualized care.
“A doctor in that office went out of her way to figure out how to get an epi-pen on the bus for my son. Called the school district’s main doctor, the school nurse, looked up the laws, and got back to me with how she thought I should proceed. It was amazing.” –Female health care consumer, Northeastern U.S.
AKA: Provides individualized care specific to a patient’s unique needs
Personalization is a top-ranked functional driver for healthcare consumers. In fact, personalization is second only to quality outcomes in terms of stated importance—which paints a picture of just how significant it is to get right. While related to emotional motivator individualization, personalization refers to the functional side of what a healthcare provider delivers vs. the way it makes that person feel.
You can think about it as peace of mind (emotional) vs. a piece of technology (functional). Both sides of this coin are essential to creating great—and well-rounded—healthcare experiences. When we asked consumers to tell us more about exactly what kinds of personalized touches create great healthcare experiences, here’s what they had to say:
1. Care for the whole person
Consumers feel like they are receiving personalized care when their provider considers the entire patient as part of their exam, diagnosis and treatment. This includes all aspects of the patient’s emotional, physical and behavioral health—as well as their lifestyle and other personal factors. Consumers state that personalized care is the opposite of “one-size-fits-all”, with a focus on the root problem rather than the symptom.
“I recently moved under a new provider’s care and had an initial physical exam and ‘get to know you’ appointment. The provider spent a solid 1.5 hrs with me and I left feeling that he had a thorough understanding of my background, current state, and risk factors.” –Female health care consumer, Midwestern U.S.
2. “Outside-the-box” solutions
Consumers feel like they are receiving personalized care when they feel like their provider is looking “outside-the-box” to find a solution that will work best for their unique situation. This kind of treatment creates trust, indicating to consumers that the provider is on the side of the patient, first-and-foremost.
“When I had back surgery, the doctor told me he was going to use a specific piece of hardware and special glue that the hospital didn’t like for him to use because it was so expensive. He used it and everything has been holding perfectly.” –Male health care consumer, Southern U.S.
3. An all-in, coordinated team
For some consumers, personalized care is defined by having a coordinated care team that is fully invested in the patient’s care. Having a group of providers and caregivers working towards their needs makes patients feel like they are at the center of a personalized care experience. These consumers cite specialty providers as the most likely to deliver this expression of personalization.
“I am a cancer survivor and when I was diagnosed there was an entire team working on my diagnosis and treatment. Though the team included professionals from different facilities and specialties, they were all connected to the facility where I was being treated and worked together to devise a treatment plan specifically for me. I was very fortunate to have an amazing team, as well as an incredible group of care providers at the facility where I was treated. They are a shining example of what people should expect from their medical care.” –Female health care consumer, Western U.S.
Now that you know the difference between individualized and personalization, we want to hear from you—which of these humanizing experience elements has been the most challenging to get right at your organization? Reach out to us and start a conversation.
And for more on healthcare emotional motivators and functional drivers, be sure to download our latest Humanizing Brand Experience report.