In the further morphing of health services into consumer products, people want to personalize health plans. Deloitte has further sliced and diced the findings of The 2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers, which I wrote about in Health Populi here on 21st February 2008.

I really appreciate Deloitte’s consumer segmentation, which attempts to get at differences between peoples’ preferences for health engagement and empowerment. For example, while there is a cadre of consumers who are “online and onboard” and fully engaged with their health behaviors and choices, another group is considered “casual and cautious.”

One area of relative homogeneity among consumers, however, is that 3 in 4 want to customize their health plan by picking and choosing benefits they value — versus the usual process of selecting from a few pre-packaged options. Most say that, if given a choice, the ability to customize and choose benefits would have a strong influence on their choice of a health plan.

There is also a strong preference among health consumers for home monitoring tools that would reduce visits to physician offices, bolstering the concepts of self-management and at-home care, along with convenience and time-saving. Nearly half would also like access to a personal health record for their own consumption. And, as many as 40% want access to alternative approaches to treatment, with 32% of people looking for doctors with a holistic orientation. In fact, nearly 1/2 of people say access to alternative health care providers would have a strong influence on their choice of a health plan.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: As people have taken on a do-it-yourself role when it comes to their travel and financial planning, they are beginning to adopt DIY in health care. I caution market planners and strategists to remember the lessons of the Diffusion of Innovations first proffered by Ev Rogers. DIY health isn’t for everybody in the immediate term. Deloitte’s segmentation approach speaks to this caveat. But an S-curve of adoption has momentum behind it, and as more people adopt DIY-health — as we’ve seen with the popularity of Travelocity and Expedia for travel, and e-Trade and Schwab online for personal finance — health will emerge as a self-service sector. The challenges of health literacy and health plan literacy stand as obstacles for many consumers, but these are not insurmountable for those health plans, plan sponsors and consumers themselves who make empowerment and engagement a strategic objective.

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