This October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a timely reminder of the importance of proactive and preventative healthcare. Mammograms are a critical proactive procedure for early detection. Unfortunately, during these current times of economic uncertainty, patients may be tempted to cut back on preventive medical. However, being proactive about one’s health is more critical now than ever before. According to the WHO, early diagnosis of cancer alone can save lives and cut treatment costs substantially. Not only can preventive care lead to better health outcomes, but studies show it can reduce healthcare spending over a patient’s lifetime by 3-10 times the upfront costs. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in this blog post, we’ll explore why clinics should educate patients on the benefits of proactive care and provide strategies to empower community members to take charge of their wellbeing.
The Perception Problem
When money is tight, many patients think that routine doctor’s visits, cancer screenings, vaccinations, and other preventive services are unnecessary expenses. There is a perception that quality healthcare is unaffordable, and therefore not a wise investment during a recession. However, this outlook can be detrimental and set up barriers to critical care. Preventive care can catch health issues early when they are most treatable, reduce emergency room visits which are expensive for both insured and non-insured patients, ultimately improving outcomes and reducing costs compared to late diagnoses and intervention. As trusted community partners, clinics have an opportunity to shift mindsets by communicating the cost-saving benefits of being proactive.
A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half of Americans have skipped or postponed medical care due to worries about cost. Key screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies have seen significant declines, along with routine physicals and check-ups. While cutting back may seem wise in tough times, it often leads to more serious illness and higher expenses later. Catching issues early with preventive care saves lives and money. Clinics must work to change perceptions through education and outreach.
The Cost-Saving Benefits of Proactive Care
While an ounce of prevention may seem more expensive upfront, it pays off exponentially down the road. Preventive care allows doctors to detect and address issues before they escalate into emergencies requiring hospitalization or intensive treatment. From a financial perspective, the numbers speak for themselves. According to the CDC, preventive care is associated with 30% lower health costs per year.
For patients, the lifetime benefits of prevention add up quickly. Cancer screenings alone are estimated to reduce treatment costs by thousands per patient when they catch tumors early. Vaccines can prevent costly doctor’s visits, medications, and lost time at work to cope with illness. Habits like diet and exercise keep chronic conditions at bay that rack up expenses over decades. The Affordable Care Act has also made prevention more accessible by requiring insurers to cover recommended check-ups, immunizations, and screenings at no charge. Many clinics also offer sliding fee scales that adjust a patient’s out-of-pocket contribution based on income, ensuring care is affordable for all regardless of whether they make $13k or $60k per year.
Clinics stand to gain financially as well when patients are proactive. With value-based payment models becoming more prevalent, providers are rewarded for keeping populations healthy through prevention, not for treating illness. This paradigm shift incentivizes clinics to be proactive.
Strategies for Clinics to Promote Proactive Patient Behavior
Here are four strategies clinics can implement to shift mindsets and empower patients to take charge of their health journey:
- Provide Comprehensive Education Materials
Clinics can develop materials like press releases, display ads, social media posts, and billboards that communicate the importance of preventive care to the broader community. These external channels allow clinics to reach people who may not be current patients and educate them on the value of prevention and early detection. The materials should highlight screening guidelines, bust myths, and share statistics on the cost-effectiveness of proactive care. Infographics and visuals make the information easy to digest. This outreach provides community members the knowledge they need to prioritize preventive visits and take charge of their health. For current patients, clinics can still leverage printed brochures, posters, and flyers distributed in exam rooms and waiting areas to reinforce the message. Expanding education efforts beyond the clinic walls is key to shifting mindsets.
A key step to building comprehensive education materials is understanding the demographics of your patient base. Our clients have seen great success when using multilingual campaigns to connect with patients whose first language is not English. In fact, we have found Spanish display ad and CTV click-through rates are up to 300% higher than their English campaigns. By using native language campaigns, your patients not only better understand your message, but feel important too.
- Offer and Advertise Incentives for Proactive Behavior
Providing financial incentives or rewards to patients who obtain preventive care can motivate action. Examples include discounted copays on annual physicals, gift cards for screening appointments completed, loyalty punch cards where 10 screenings earn a prize, or even a monthly lottery for proactive patients. The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers in New Jersey launched a program called Healthy Rewards, which offers incentives like gift cards and gym memberships to patients who complete preventive services. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota also provides financial incentives through its MyPreventiveCare program for screenings like colonoscopies, mammograms, and vaccinations. These types of perks make it easy for patients to do the right thing for their health. Incentives should be easy to understand and obtain – automatic at the point of service delivery vs. requiring extensive paperwork.
These efforts can make great content for press releases or other forms of patient outreach like social media ads, display ads and paid search.
- Behavioral Health Studies Foster Patient-Provider Communication
Clinics can train providers and nurses on effective communication techniques to explain the importance of prevention and early detection, listen to patient concerns, and gain trust. Behavioral health studies can inform providers on the messaging techniques that will be most effective for a particular patient cohort. By segmenting patients into cohorts, providers can learn how best to communicate to patients. For example, in the case of colorectal screenings, some patients may respond better with direct messaging: not getting screened could result in late discovery of cancer and death. However, this message may be too direct for other patients. These patients will benefit from messaging centered around a better future like wanting to make sure you can dance at your daughter’s wedding.
- Health Risk Assessments & Website Optimization
Updating your website and including landing pages for Health Risk Assessments and preventative care will guide your patients toward taking the first steps to be more proactive in their healthcare journey. Virtual Health Risk Assessments can help a patient determine a base level for what they may be at higher risk for and what care they are due to seek out. These assessments add value to the patient first and help them to build confidence and understanding in their preventative treatment. An optimized website will also typically perform better through paid search, ultimately increasing new patient acquisition.
Preventative Care for a Healthier and Happier Community
The recession provides clinics an important opportunity to shift mindsets on the necessity of timely preventive care. As trusted community health leaders, clinics have the power to communicate the message that protecting one’s health is wise and affordable, even when budgets are tight. By implementing patient-centric strategies focused on education, reminders, incentives, and relationship building, clinics can activate patients to become proactive participants in their well-being. This not only leads to improved community health outcomes, but significant cost savings that benefit individuals, clinics, and the broader healthcare system.
At Target Continuum, our extensive experience driving preventive care engagement makes us uniquely positioned to help clinics achieve this vital mission. The time for prevention is now! Schedule an appointment today to learn more.