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Editorial: Healthcare’s primary decision-maker is female

Kayla Lounsbery, Marketing Director, NRC Health


March is Women’s History Month—not that we need an excuse to focus exclusively on women’s impact in healthcare. However, from a historical viewpoint, the timing couldn’t be much more appropriate, as we’ve seen more change in healthcare in the past few months than we have over the past few decades. Women are at the heart of this evolution—our behaviors and preferences are driving a need for change.

But why?

Women as consumers

According to NRC Health data that collects feedback from over 150,000 U.S. women annually, women hold the power for change because 78 percent of them consider themselves to be the primary healthcare decision-maker for their household. So if the lifetime value of one patient is $1.4 million, and women are making the healthcare decisions for themselves, their partners, and their dependents, they need to be considered not only equally in relation to male customers, but especially. And there’s much to consider.

Women and social media
81% of women utilize social media
69% of men utilize social media

While far more women are utilizing social media, they are less likely to search for healthcare information or engage with a healthcare provider via social media. There is an opportunity for healthcare organizations to evolve their social strategy to make engagement more inviting to the large female audience participating there.

Women and star ratings
51% of women have viewed doctor ratings/reviews online
#1 Star ratings are the most important information on hospital websites

In a blog earlier this month, Cally Ideus, a business development manager at NRC Health, describes how she has turned to star ratings in times of healthcare need. And she’s no different from the majority of female healthcare consumers. Not only are women far more likely than men to view star ratings—51 percent versus 39 percent—but those ratings are also the information they tend to deem most important when looking at a healthcare organization’s website. Capturing female attention in healthcare will require an organizational strategy for publishing star ratings and reviews.

Women and non-traditional healthcare
55% of women have visited urgent care
27% of women have used holistic/alternative care

When it comes to their care, women are more willing to step outside the traditional confines of healthcare to stay well. Services like urgent care, retail clinics, and telemedicine—which women are all more willing than men to use —no doubt make busy schedules more manageable. Women are also more likely than men to use wearable devices and to take health-risk assessments, showing a stronger sense of personal responsibility and engagement with health.

Women and loyalty
62% of women are loyal to a healthcare brand
#1 The top driver of loyalty for women is their previous experience

While women are only slightly more loyal than men to healthcare brands—a 2 percent difference—their number-one driver of loyalty, previous experience, matters much more to them than other factors. And because the ease of women’s experience with your organization guides care decisions for their entire households, there’s a lot at stake.

Indications of an increasingly female future

Women as healthcare’s majority care provider
It comes as no surprise that women continue to dominate the nursing field, as they have since the profession’s inception—the U.S. Department of Labor still puts the female foothold at about 90 percent. And while current numbers show that women comprise only 34 percent of the physician population, those numbers are on the rise. Medical schools around the country are reporting that their enrolling classes in the past few years show the majority of new medical students to be female.

So as little as a decade from now, the female perspective could not only dominate the healthcare consumer point of view, but the provider point of view as well.

Women as healthcare’s emerging leader
While women’s overwhelming presence in healthcare is undeniable, it’s still pretty lonely for them at the top. According to the American College of Healthcare Executives, women account for only one in four of hospital or health-system CEOs.

An editorial posted earlier this month in Modern Healthcare made an excellent case for female leadership in the healthcare industry. To put it simply, in my own words: healthcare would benefit from more female leaders, not only because women have an intrinsic understanding of the majority of their stakeholders, but because they’re good at leading! The US News top-ranked children’s hospital, Boston Children’s, has a female CEO. Aetna—a company whose merger with CVS has the potential to revolutionize community health—has a female president. The largest health system in the U.S., Ascension Health, has a female CEO. I could list dozens more, but you see where I am going with this.

We’ve reached a serendipitous point, one in which healthcare has never been more fast-moving and forward-looking, and women have never been more empowered to take charge—of both their care and their careers. It’s an exciting time for healthcare and women, and I couldn’t be more grateful or humbled to be a part of it.


About the Author

Kayla Lounsbery is a marketing director at NRC Health. She’s spent her near decade-long career in healthcare focused on humanizing brands and helping healthcare organizations become more customer-driven. Away from the office, Kayla is an avid runner, sports enthusiast, and fashionista living in Seattle with her husband and two stepchildren.