In healthcare, women are the most valuable players. Women account for 50% of the world’s population, yet make 80% of healthcare decisions. They take responsibility, not just for their own health, but for the health of their household – comprising 75% of in-home care caregivers. Throughout a woman’s life she may assume the caregiver role for her children, her aging parents, and possibly even her spouse.
Women are involved at every stage in the healthcare process, from selecting insurance and providers to making appointments and purchasing medications, which makes them a powerful force. As a result, healthcare companies across the spectrum from payers to providers to pharmaceutical companies should be in tune to the needs of this influential cohort.
So, what does a woman want from the patient experience and how does she differ from her male counterparts? Prophet’s recent Patient Experience study of 3,000 consumers, conducted in partnership with GE Healthcare Camden Groups uncovers some interesting dynamics.
How Women’s Healthcare Habits Differ from Men
In general, women are more proactive and knowledgeable about their health and about the services they receive.
They are more likely to put the onus for their health on themselves, strongly believing that “My health is my responsibility.” They are also more inclined to see the long-game – with 3/5 of our sample believing that taking care of their health now will save on medical costs in the long-run.
Women are more confident in their understanding of general health and in their ability to navigate healthcare. This is due in part to the fact that they are proactive consumers. Women are more likely to seek information and conduct extensive research to make decisions for themselves.
Women also care more about a provider’s reputation than men. In fact, nearly 50% of the women we surveyed would go out of their way to get care from a provider with a better reputation.
What Women Want From the Patient Experience
In short, women want a better healthcare experience, with only 20% of female consumers expressing a high degree of satisfaction with their healthcare experiences. Their patient experience is affected by three primary factors:
1. Personal interaction
Women prefer a face-to-face experience. They are less likely than men to use telemedicine for their treatment, with only 50% of our sample willing to use this technology. They also crave more emotional support and empathy throughout the healthcare journey – not just in the doctor’s office.
2. Type of information & guidance they receive
Nearly 50% of the women surveyed want more preventative information from their regular doctors. But as they move from their primary care physician to a hospital setting, the complexity of the knowledge they seek grows. For example, in a hospital setting, women are more interested in obtaining details about acute care treatments and advanced diagnostics.
3. The convenience of the experience
A less frustrating experience is a universal desire between both genders, but still merits mention. No one wants to spend hours waiting at a doctor’s office or on the phone trying to figure out a healthcare bill.
Our survey indicates considerable room to ease the burden of routine tasks such as making appointments and waiting room times, which would improve the patient experience for all consumers.
5 Essential Tips to Improve Women’s Patient Experiences
We’ve established that improving the patient experience is important for women, but what does that look like for the average business or organization? Here are some tips to consider.
1. Don’t be afraid to share complex information
In general, women have a high level of knowledge and confidence around general health and wellness, so seek to add more value with the information you provide.
2. Do take the time to listen
Take the time to listen and empathize with patients so you can understand their baseline knowledge and treatment needs. For example, high patient satisfaction at Mayo Clinic is in part driven by their 90-minute initial consult times for many service lines.
3. Don’t be tempted to replace face-to-face appointments entirely
Employ face-to-face meetings for important interactions, such as initial consults and diagnoses. Save the virtual meetings for less-critical appointments such as follow-ups, which is an effective method New York City’s largest health system New York Presbyterian Weill-Cornell has implemented to gain efficiencies without compromising care.
4. Do respect patients’ time
Work to ease frustration on things like appointment bookings and wait times. And employ tactics that can make the wait times go by more quickly, such as providing tablets with customized medical content.
5. Do proactively & regularly manage your reputation
Women in general spend more time online than men, and value online research and reviews. They will actively seek out the three Rs: ratings, rankings and reviews. So engage in social listening to ensure you know what your reputation is both online and offline, and consider managing it proactively.
Final Thoughts on Women’s Patient Experience
Women take an active role in the healthcare of their own lives as well as the lives of their family members. Now more than ever, patients have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare providers. If you want to improve your patient’s experience, then you need to understand what women want in healthcare.
-  Kaiser Family Foundation Report: “Women’s Health Care Chartbook”, 2011
-  Institute on Aging, 2016
-  https://www.prophet.com/patientexperience/