In part one of this series, we explored how often women make the healthcare decisions for their own health and that of their families. In this part, we’ll dig into why women’s healthcare is no longer a niche, as well as the peril systems place themselves in if they ignore the needs of these patients.
Part two: Women’s healthcare matters; ignore it at your peril
It’s a no-brainer that women have the potential to drastically affect healthcare systems’ bottom lines—and that is something healthcare execs need to pay attention to. Beyond the merely financial, there are a number of reasons to focus on women’s healthcare that can have broad system impact.
Working mothers are four times more likely to take time off of work when their child gets sick. But because more than 56 percent of working mothers do not have paid time off to care for sick kids or relatives (or themselves), they are often forced to choose between taking care of a loved one or getting a paycheck. For some families, the paycheck trumps, which means sick kids go to school or daycare and sick moms go to work, spreading viruses to others, including potentially fragile or low-immunity patients.
Women in rural areas face a substantial lack of care. This is especially true when it comes to OB/GYNs. When doctors or clinics are too far away or inconvenient, some women opt out of traditional outlets and seek care elsewhere, such as midwives or alternative care like acupuncture.
TRUST AND CONFIDENCE
A recent study shows that women are less likely than men to feel confident that their doctors understand their lifestyle and health goals. That lack of confidence results in a smaller number of women saying they are very likely to follow their doctor’s recommendations. This is likely a contributing reason why half of all prescriptions aren’t adhered to.
Women are more likely to use services like retail clinics and telehealth to get care. Because they are responsible not only for their own care, but that of their family members, access to care that works with their lifestyles, budgets, and schedules is paramount.
A segment of women who are often overlooked in discussions about healthcare are those who provide care themselves: doctors, nurses, and other clinicians. Physician burnout is a concern across gender lines, and that burnout leads to more than 400 physicians taking their lives each year. A sobering fact — when female clinicians attempt suicide, they are twice as likely to succeed.
Ignore at your peril
Global annual health spending is expected to reach more than $8.7 trillion in the next two years—and women control the purse strings in 80 percent of the decisions about how those dollars are spent. Female consumers will have a greater global economic contribution than the GDP of China and the United States combined by 2020.
Healthcare systems that fail to recognize the importance of embracing the needs and wants of women could be missing their piece of that enormous pie. Particularly because women’s choices for where and how they receive healthcare are growing—it seems—by the day, and provider loyalty is less important than access to online tools and patient-friendly options. In fact, 90 percent of patients feel no obligation to stay with a healthcare system that doesn’t provide those options.
On top of that women have an amplifier effect. The number one driver of loyalty for women is personal experience. Failing that, they are highly reliant on word of mouth from friends and family when it comes to making consumer decisions (22 percent more so than men). A majority of them view online ratings of doctors and healthcare organizations when deciding where to get treatment, and they are more likely to leave online ratings based on their experiences. Women listen to other women. This means every patient touchpoint could influence dozens of decisions down the road.
If this is starting to feel like a story specifically written to scare healthcare administrators, never fear: we’ve got some Bright ideas about how health systems can engage and delight female patients. We’ll dig into them in part three.