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Patient segmentation and patient groups. Who is the target audience of my service?

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Every company has a knowledge base. The Story is no exception.

We take notes to write down our experience, record the research results, prepare our own tools to improve our work, etc.

Some of this knowledge is suitable for sharing with all interested parties.

However, an issue has drawn our attention: information communication. Even if we have something worth sharing, it can easily get lost.

We decided to write this article to organize the knowledge about patient segmentation and turn it into a checklist for health care marketing professionals, which you can find at the end.

Today, we tackle the topic of patient segmentation, a method of dividing a patient population into segments. Thanks to patient segments, medical care professionals, health care providers, and health care stakeholders can describe in detail their patients' characteristics, needs, and behaviors.

With such a data-driven approach, organizations can significantly improve processes involved in population health management.

Do you want to create or improve your product?

Target group. What should we keep in mind when we want to determine it?

We must engage others with our products: readers, customers, viewers, and even patients. We often read that high-quality interactive content is needed to capture the audience's attention.

Content advice abounds, but nobody wants to discuss the customer group, which is the foundation. This is also a painful subject for every marketer.

Who will come to us? How many will there be? Will anyone buy anything? What should we do if it's not about the content but the service, product, or brand? Who are we addressing our message to? What should we work on?

After all, we won't start the work of creating or enhancing a medical service with content. Defining the target group is the first step to success.

The traditional way of thinking about customer segmentation

What is the issue with building any audience group? The problem is in the marketer's way of thinking: age, level of education, earnings, geography, and place of work. Have such criteria ever helped anyone in reaching their target?

When it comes to patients, it is even more difficult. We tend to think: I need patients with asthma because I produce (or design) a device for patients with asthma (or I work in telehealth). Great, but how do we determine the group of health service recipients?

Patient groups

In addition to the demographic and therapeutic divisions, all patients belong to their respective groups in terms of their health and treatment. PIP Health has created an appropriate segmentation based on its own research from 2014.

All patients have been divided into four groups: Evaders, Tolerators, Fighters, and Cynics. Patient segmentation is highly valuable due to its concept because it points to the fact that some patients do not want to receive treatment and prefer not to think about their condition.

For this reason, when working on innovation for the health care market, its creator can mainly count on Fighters and Cynics.

Characteristics of patient groups according to PIP Health

As mentioned, PIP Health — an international research organization focusing on improving the health care system — divided the patient population into four groups. They all have their own characteristics and ways of dealing with their health.


This patient group is the least concerned about the state of their health. When faced with diseases, they don't feel sorrow or anger and claim that they can speak about their medical status without issue. Typically, they don't search for new solutions or treatments regarding their afflictions. However, when they do decide to get treatment, they don't tolerate any side effects of medications.


Fighters are more in touch with their health and feel in control of it. When they get sick, they don't feel any compassion towards themselves; they want to fight through it. They treat their conditions as a part of their lives; they have no problems speaking about them. Additionally, they actively seek new solutions to their problems and are interested in new treatment methods. Yet, they also want to minimize the side effects of medications as much as possible.


When sick, this group feels angry and lacks control over their situation. They also find it challenging to discuss their conditions. It's hard to motivate them to look for solutions and treatments since they would like to know as little information about their sickness as possible. As a result, they're the least informed among the patient groups.


They feel heavily influenced by their medical state and believe that they can't fight it. Their condition makes them angry and motivates them to look for new solutions. They aren't afraid to participate in new forms of treatment, but similar to the other groups, they want to feel as few side effects as possible.

Benefits and challenges of patient segmentation

Grouping patients according to specific criteria can help health systems be more effective and efficient. Thanks to population segmentation, health care stakeholders can understand what attracts and motivates people to use health care services.

The list of patient segmentation benefits includes the following:

  • Tailoring care delivery and health policy
  • Determining high-risk or high-cost patients
  • Improving patient engagement efforts
  • Managing health care resources
  • Helping achieve better health outcomes
  • Improving treatment strategies
  • Minimizing chances of overlooking patients who don't actively seek help
  • Making health care services more accessible

The better the segmentation, the better results it can help achieve for both private health care systems and public health.

Challenges of patient segmentation

Of course, applying patient segmentation is not as easy as it may appear. Some factors need to be considered.

Those factors include the following:

  • Management of massive amounts of data. Since segmentation is so data-driven, hospitals and clinics need to manage and analyze it efficiently.
  • Considerations regarding ethics. When handling large groups of people, especially in health care, it's crucial to be unbiased and avoid discrimination. Health care stakeholders should ensure that their services are accessible and accurate.
  • Methods of accumulating patient feedback. It's essential to find appropriate tools and platforms that will aid health care facilities in organizing and acquiring patient feedback. Quick forwarding of relevant data can significantly speed up the process of patient segmentation.
  • Privacy and consent. Working with patient data requires the application of appropriate safety measures and obtaining consent for gathering information.

Types of patient segmentation

Various methods exist for creating patient segments and many criteria for assessing patient populations. The choice of appropriate type mainly depends on the goals that health care organizations want to achieve.

Common types of patient segmentation:

  • Demographic segmentation. This division focuses on acquiring data such as gender, age, ethnicity, income, and level of education. It allows health care providers to create programs tailored to age, gender, or ethnicity.
  • Psychographic segmentation. This segmentation gathers information on different motivations, values, attitudes, and lifestyles. As a result, clinics and hospitals can provide better mental health care and devise motivational strategies to encourage patients to start treatment.
  • Behavioral segmentation analyzes patients' behavior, including how they use health care services, respond to treatment, and view themselves and their conditions. Behavioral segmentation aids in designing programs aimed at chronic disease patients or setting up appropriate appointment reminders for reluctant patients.
  • Need-based segmentation. This type of patient segmentation is very patient-centered as it takes a closer look at patients with complex needs, the severity of their diseases, their health status, and the care they will require. Need-based segmentation allows health care professionals to manage resources appropriately and provide adequate care.

Analyzing patient groups: segmentation tools

We can't count on luck if we want to perform successful and beneficial patient segmentation.

Here are some tools that can help health systems analyze patient data:

  • 3M Clinical Risk Groups — a population classification system that utilizes inpatient and ambulatory data (and many more) to allocate patients in groups based on severity.
  • Johns Hopkins Adjusted Clinical Groups System is population health analytics software that tracks patients and assesses risks. Thanks to it, we can reduce costs and plan for the future.
  • The Community Assessment Risk Screen is a tool for identifying elderly patients who are at a higher risk of needing medical services.
  • Decision Point Healthcare Solutions is a platform that aims to improve patient and provider engagement by providing solutions that make data collection faster and easier.
  • Salesforce Health Cloud is CRM software that stores all patient data in one place. It facilitates patient monitoring and allows for patient segmentation according to various criteria. Additionally, it offers various tools to improve patient engagement.
  • Juvonno EMR is an EMR software that makes it possible to send targeted campaigns, notifications, and reminders and allows professionals to be in constant contact with their patients.

All these tools and platforms enable health care practitioners to focus entirely on patients and their conditions instead of time-consuming analysis and data gathering. Moreover, they can provide them with insights that would otherwise be omitted. After all, they are only humans, and these types of tools aim to eliminate human error.

How to perform patient segmentation?

Since we thoroughly discussed the elements of patient segmentation, only one question remains. How to perform it?

Here are the steps that we will need to take:

  • Define our goals — clearly define what we want to achieve (e.g., better treatment strategies or improved patient engagement).
  • Determine data sources — from where will we draw our data? (electronic medical records, patient surveys, clinical trials)
  • Clean and prepare our data — remove any duplicates, fill in missing entries, and standardize formats.
  • Define criteria — determine according to which criteria we will group our patients (behavioral criteria, demographic criteria, need-based criteria).
  • Perform an analysis — once we have organized our data, we should analyze it with the help of data analytics tools.
  • Implement the obtained results — turn our findings into actions and incorporate the results of our analysis into our strategies and health care plans.
  • Monitor our segments — observe how our patient segments respond to our customized approach and keep an eye on key performance indicators.

Patient engagement

Patient engagement is another crucial factor influencing the operation and efficiency of a health system and overall population health. After all, if patients don't care about their health status and consequently health care services, then there is not much that doctors and other professionals can do.

The article "Patient Segmentation: How – and Why – You Should Be Analyzing Your Patient Population Segments" provides helpful information regarding patient engagement. However, if we want to save time, we summarized these tips below.

First, how do we even recognize an engaged patient?

Traits of engaged patients:

  • Informed — informed patients understand their condition and eagerly learn about the prescribed treatment.
  • Heard — heard patients have no trouble communicating with their doctors and actively participate in decision-making.
  • Empowered — empowered patients believe they can influence and change their health outcomes.
  • Active — active patients are more inclined to take steps towards improving their situation.

Keeping patients engaged is not easy, but it certainly aids in improving patient satisfaction and retention. More importantly, strategies for patient engagement ensure that even those patients who were initially reluctant will start caring about their health.

#WPOGOTOWIU. Example of patient segmentation

Patients feel, speak, think, and act differently. The first page of our bold action #wpogotowiu, entitled patient segmentation, is devoted to it.

It has been specifically designed for the heroes working in the difficult area of health care service marketing communication. These heroes include content managers, researchers, UX designers, PR specialists, marketing directors, and their teams.

Download the note and print it on an A4 sheet, use a hole punch, and put it in a binder. Enjoy!

You don't need to provide your email address to download the note. Just click the link below.

Download: Patient segmentation (PDF checklist)

Patient segmentation scheme in marketing research

Patient segmentation. Summary

Patient segmentation is a process of assigning patients to different groups based on carefully designed criteria. Different health care organizations will choose different methods to group their patients according to their individual needs and goals.

According to PIP Health, we can distinguish four patient segments: Evaders, Tolerators, Fighters, and Cynics. Each segment has its own traits and ways of approaching its conditions. It's essential to analyze them thoroughly so that healt care professionals can devise appropriate and effective ways of reaching them and offering adequate levels of care.

Patient segmentation allows clinics and hospitals to achieve better health outcomes, tailor care delivery and health policy, improve treatment strategies, make health care more accessible, and more.

Creating patient groups is challenging as it involves, among other things, managing huge data sets, finding efficient tools for gathering feedback, and ensuring that no one is discriminated against.

Patient engagement is also an important factor for overall population health management, as it's crucial to keep patients motivated and push them to take care of their conditions.

Thankfully, there are all sorts of tools that can help health care providers tackle patient segmentation and improve patient engagement. With their help, professionals can focus on helping patients rather than wrestling with data.

Hero shot: Doctor Popular / Flickr.com / Bbit.ly/2lSqRTg / CC BY-SA 2.0

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Journal / JPG / Dymitr Romanowski - avatar
Author: Dymitr Romanowski
Product Designer, Head of Design

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