Customizing Healthcare Communications for Men and Women To Maximize Engagement and Participation

Providers understand the importance of communicating with patients about gender-specific health risks and conditions. However, other less obvious differences in care expectations exist between the sexes. For example, a recent Intrado study found that male patients have a greater interest in receiving healthcare communications about bills and financial responsibilities than female patients.

Customizing Healthcare Communications for Men and Women To Maximize Engagement and Participation
Customizing Healthcare Communications for Men and Women To Maximize Engagement and Participation

A recent Intrado study found that female and male patients see greater value in different types of healthcare communications. To maximize engagement and participation in care, providers can customize automated communications beyond just addressing gender-specific health risks.

To maximize engagement and participation in healthcare, providers can customize experiences for men and women through automated notifications. Read Intrado’s new eBook for insights useful in aligning communications with patients’ preferences. Read on this article to learn more about customizing patient communications to satisfy both male and female patients.

Does the healthcare industry adjust care experiences for the uniqueness of male and female patients? Men and women have different healthcare needs and preferences. If healthcare teams understand those differences, they can address them with customized healthcare experiences. Obvious differences related to health risks and conditions that are gender-specific may be easy for healthcare providers to recognize. However, other differences in men’s and women’s healthcare preferences may be less noticeable— like communication preferences.

To identify similarities and differences in the communication preferences of men and women, Intrado surveyed 1,036 adults (504 men and 532 women) and 317 healthcare providers in the U.S. The survey responses revealed insights that providers can use to align communications with patients’ preferences and improve healthcare experiences.

According to survey results, men are more likely than women to rate the performance of their healthcare providers highly. When asked how well their current healthcare providers handle a variety of tasks, in every category, more men than women said their providers did a “good” job or better. For example, 75 percent of men compared to 67 percent of women report that their healthcare provider does either a good, very good or excellent job of treating them like a valued patient.

Survey responses also revealed:

  • 69 percent of men vs. 64 percent of women feel their healthcare providers do a good job (or better) of making recommendations based on information that is specific to them personally and their healthcare needs.
  • 68 percent of men vs. 61 percent of women say their healthcare providers do at least a good job of making recommendations about or scheduling preventive tests and screenings.
  • 66 percent of men vs. 55 percent of women say their healthcare providers do a good job (or better) of communicating about lab results.
  • 64 percent of men vs. 48 percent of women report that their healthcare providers do a good, very good or excellent job of providing an easy way to pay for or understand medical bills.
  • 61 percent of men vs. 50 percent of women feel their healthcare providers do a good job (or better) of sending automated communications such as automated text, voice call or email reminders to encourage patients to take actions like schedule appointments or take medications.
  • 61 percent of men vs. 47 percent of women say their providers do a good, very good or excellent job of sending reminder messages when patients need to pick up medications or refill prescriptions.

At the very least, these survey findings show that men and women have different standards when it comes to healthcare. They are also a reminder that healthcare communications are most effective when they are personalized to match the diverse expectations of patients. The first step to making that happen is examining what men and women value most.

Women Value Satisfaction and Support

It may seem obvious that patients want to feel satisfied with their healthcare providers and experiences. However, survey findings show that satisfaction with providers may be slightly more important to women than men. Intrado asked survey participants why they believe it is important to feel satisfied with healthcare professionals. The survey responses revealed that more women than men believe it is important to feel satisfied with the healthcare providers they visit because they want:

  • To feel like they are receiving the best possible care (70% women, 56% men)
  • To feel like healthcare providers care about their health (66% women, 50% men)
  • Help improving or to maintain their health (59% women, 46% men)
  • To make treatment decisions with their providers (54% women, 42% men)
  • To feel like the money they are paying for healthcare is worthwhile (47% women, 44% men)

Because satisfaction is so important to women, healthcare teams must use surveys to measure satisfaction and capture feedback from female patients about how to improve care experiences. But satisfaction surveys are just one part of the solution. In addition to surveys, healthcare teams can use several types of automated notifications to offer women the ongoing communication they want and help them feel like they are receiving the best possible care. Increased communication outside of office visits also shows that their providers care about their health. Intrado’s survey revealed that many women are interested in receiving automated messages from their healthcare providers and that healthcare teams have opportunities to improve satisfaction rates among female patients by engaging them via automated text messages, voice messages and emails. While both women and men are open to receiving automated messages from their healthcare providers, Intrado’s survey responses revealed that women are more likely to want to receive notifications about:

  • Scheduling or canceling appointments (63% women, 48% men)
  • When lab results will be available (61% women, 49% men)
  • Appointment delays or providers running late (61% women, 45% men)
  • Reminders to refill prescription medications (57% women, 41% men)
  • Scheduling a preventive screening or test (51% women, 41% men)
  • Appointment questions, such as follow-up for a recent visit or what to bring to an upcoming appointment (46% women, 33% men)
  • Location change, traffic, or construction updates that could impact travel to an appointment (46% women, 32% men)

It isn’t surprising that women are interested in periodically receiving communications that remind and encourage them to take actions related to their health. Without these prompts, many women are likely to neglect their health needs. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that making time for health maintenance may be more challenging for women than it is for men, as women don’t always prioritize their health. Nearly one in four women (23%) admit that they have delayed or put off receiving healthcare services because they couldn’t find time to go to the doctor.1 Yet, fewer than one in five men (18%) say that they’ve delayed or gone without care because they didn’t have time to go to the doctor. For women who find it difficult or who are reluctant to make time for healthcare, reminders to schedule appointments for preventive services or to pick up prescriptions, for example, can offer a helpful nudge.

Overall, women are less likely than men (48% vs. 65%) to believe that the healthcare providers they visit want to communicate with them between appointments. Healthcare teams that send patients relevant text messages, voice messages and emails between appointments can show they are committed to communication and, at the same time, tailor healthcare experiences to meet women’s expectations. All of this can be accomplished using simple messages—like automated alerts when lab results are available, notifications when patients are due for and need to schedule mammograms, or reminders to take medications or to follow through with care plans.

Men Appreciate Engagement and Financial Communication

Men and women have different expectations for healthcare, so they often behave differently as patients. Men are less likely than women (68% vs. 81%) to have a doctor that they routinely visit for care.2 Men may also be more reluctant to seek any care from a healthcare provider. Of the adults Intrado surveyed, 16 percent of men vs. 12 percent of women had not seen a healthcare provider in the past 24 months. Therefore, when interacting with male patients, healthcare providers need to take advantage of opportunities to engage men and encourage them to participate in routine preventive care.

For example, because men often see their providers sporadically, they don’t always know what routine screenings they need or when they are due for preventive exams. Sending male patients automated messages to alert them when they need an annual exam or preventive health screening can strengthen patient-provider relationships and encourage men to stay on track with preventive care— improving men’s healthcare experiences.

Surprisingly, men are more likely than women to wish for more frequent provider communication. This suggests that there is potential for using patient engagement messages to communicate with men about preventive care and other important care-related topics. Healthcare teams can send men (and women) personalized automated messages to:

  • Educate patients about health screenings (alert them when they are due for recommended screenings and remind them to schedule appointments)
  • Encourage patients to stay up to date on immunizations (invite patients to schedule flu shots and other immunizations)
  • Share information about managing chronic diseases
  • Promote medication adherence (remind patients to fill and pick up prescriptions and to take medications as prescribed)
  • Promote wellness and support patients with lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or being more physically active
  • Follow up with patients who were previously hospitalized
  • Communicate about the status of lab tests
  • Help clarify medical bills

These suggestions only scratch the surface when it comes to engaging patients with automated between-visit communications. There are countless possibilities for using automated messages to stay connected and to support patients between appointments.

It is worth noting that men are even more interested in receiving communications about healthcare bills and financial responsibilities than women. According to Intrado’s survey:

  • 78 percent of men agree with the statement “I want to receive automated communications from healthcare professionals to help me understand how much a treatment will cost me out of pocket before I schedule an appointment.” (women = 72%)
  • 71 percent of men agree with the statement “I want to receive automated reminders such as automated text, voice call and email reminders when my medical bills are due.” (women = 61%)
  • 58 percent of men agree with the statement “I wish I could pay medical bills by opening a link in a text message.” (women = 46%)

Though women don’t share as high an interest in receiving financially related communications, they do still see value in them. These responses simply show that financial communication is more important to men, and therefore something that healthcare providers can prioritize to ensure they are meeting the expectations of their male patients.

Communication is a critical part of the healthcare experience for patients. Because not every patient has the same communication needs and preferences, healthcare teams need to be strategic about how they communicate with different patients. For women, that often means capturing feedback and sending automated messages that both encourage women to prioritize their health and make it convenient for them to do so. For men, it may mean implementing communication strategies that foster patient engagement and encourage more regular use of preventive services, as well as sending communications that make it easier to understand and pay healthcare costs.

Source: Intrado