Why You Should Be Using Healthcare Personas

Healthcare - personalization and techniques - doctor patient consultation personalized
By Barb Lhota, Martec Consultant

Recently, I stayed at a boutique hotel on vacation in Vietnam, and each time I returned, the desk staff greeted me by name and asked specifically about the outings they had scheduled for me each day. Every month I receive a recommendation from Netflix for new shows or movies that may specifically appeal to me. Would I stay in that hotel if I returned to Hanoi? The answer is yes, and I’d also highly recommend it to friends. Do I plan to dump Netflix? No, their picks are relatively accurate, and I appreciate their suggestions.

Are consumers of healthcare and pharmaceuticals any different than those consuming music, movies, services, or household products? Consumer brands like Netflix, Amazon, and Starbucks have already harvested the power of tailored messages, so why shouldn’t healthcare and pharmaceuticals? After all, those hospitals, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies that are smart enough to utilize this strategy will grab more market share.

Data-Driven Research Proves Personalization Works

Data-driven research has shown that personalization of content increases engagement and loyalty. Furthermore, consumers are willing to allow their personal data to be mined to make it easier for an organization to provide personalized content.  Salesforce reports that 57% of consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized offers or discounts, and according to Deloitte, one in five consumers are happy for businesses to use their personal information for more personalized products. In an age of increasing noise and distraction, the way to make your healthcare or pharmaceutical company stand out is to focus on personalizing the experience for your customers.

The personalized customer experience strengthens the emotional connection a customer has to a company or brand, and the stronger the emotional connection, the more loyal the customer. Epsilon research says 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience. What could be more personal or life-changing than your healthcare and pharmaceutical use?

Additionally, recent research The Martec Group has completed with a large academic hospital network and a microbiome-based therapeutics company shows that patients want customization, personalized feedback, and targeted communications. As one respondent put it: “I am scared to death of the cookie-cutter one-size medical approach.” Not only do consumers like personalization, but future trends suggests they will require it.

Targeted Communication, Targeted Channels Drive Future Behavior

To craft messages that are strategic and fit the consumers’ deeper emotional needs, profiling, segmentation, and personas are top analysis methodologies to use. Many established healthcare organizations already segment patients according to representative criteria such as age, gender, health conditions, and household income, but as cited in the Population Health News, “Psychographics, which pertain to a person’s attitudes, values, personalities, and lifestyles, are a key to activating behaviors.” Further understanding of individuals’ emotional motivations and barriers to behavior change provide an even more precise segmentation methodology.

As there is more understanding of the emotional motivation for certain behaviors, healthcare organizations can better customize their value propositions and refine messages to spark patient engagement. These messages can be further refined by online bulletin board research, individual in-depth interviews or focus groups, to make sure they are resonating with individuals within a segment. The Martec Group is perfectly well positioned for these efforts because we offer traditional profiling of customer demographics in tandem with Emotional Intelligence – a deeper dive – and measurable analysis of emotion and personality.


Segmentation is a definable, actionable, and classifiable group of consumers created from quantitative data that looks at:

  • Demographics (age, sex, income level, location)
  • Risk Factors for Healthcare Concerns (co-morbidities)
  • Preferences and Behaviors (healthcare services used, typical cooperation with treatment plans)

In a teeming marketplace littered with social media campaigns, ad-fatigue and information overload, consumers want to cut through the noise to discover the personal information and services they need. While segmentation is the first step to understanding your customers, it won’t fully help your marketing team go deep enough to understand the motivations, personality and values that drive decision-making and behaviors. To better understand those personal elements, personas are the way to go.


Personas offer a laser focus on one or more of the individuals within a segment by understanding more deeply their emotional attitudes, values and personality. Personas help marketing teams tap into highly emotional connections to healthcare experiences and products, allowing them to realize communication that resonates.

Healthcare - personalization through segmentation and personas - different healthcare personas

The Martec Group develops personas using a combination of quantitative data for segmentation and qualitative online bulletin boards, in-depth interviews, and/or focus groups to further understand:

  • Journeys through disease state or condition
  • Attitudes about health
  • Primary emotions around health and how they influence behaviors

There are powerful tools for developing healthcare segments and persona prototypes, with trends moving toward qualitative and quantitative hybrids. These include newer methodologies that help excavate a respondent’s inner emotional needs and values.

The process looks something like this: research typically starts with techniques such as personal interviews or webchats about a respondent’s goals, frustrations, and pain points. Tools such as photo collages or personal respondent diaries can help respondents better dig into who they are and better reveal their journey through their condition and treatment. Afterward, respondents will choose what emotional attitudes toward the condition or medical product researched best fits their experience, giving us a sense of their personality and attitudes. Finally, social media intelligence and baseline demographic survey help round out the research and fill in the blanks.

To learn more about healthcare marketing research, contact us.

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