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Why engaging women as decision-makers improves health care for all

Apr 23 2015

The health care marketplace is evolving.  Experience shows us that, more and more, people are becoming true health care consumers, making health care decisions for themselves and their families. And most of the time, women make these decisions.

Research shows the critical role women play as the “Chief Medical Officer” for their families and others they care for. Women are deciding which medicines to take, health treatments to follow and doctors to see, and how to live a healthy lifestyle. Yet the research also tells us that women, as primary decision-makers, often lack the information to make the best decisions for themselves and others. A recent study from the Center for Talent Innovation shows more than half of women (53 percent) think they can get the best health information from the Internet, but 31 percent of these women do not trust the information they receive online.

And, although women make the majority of health care decisions for themselves (94 percent) and also make choices for others (59 percent), the study finds that they often lack confidence in the decisions they are making due to hectic schedules, lack of reliable information and a general sense of distrust in the industry.

When we consider these findings, we clearly see an opportunity to improve how we think about and engage women as customers. In my role, I recognize the challenges facing women as primary health care decision-makers. And as a business leader at Aetna, I’m even more aware of the significant advantage my company can gain by becoming the “go to” brand for women purchasing health insurance.

We in the health care industry have to do a better job understanding howStocksy_txp652fca5engG000_Medium_216856 women define health. Women overwhelmingly include physical fitness, and emotional and spiritual well-being in their definitions of health — far more often than they list the industry’s definition, “being free of illness.” We must also understand that decision-makers aren’t all moms: Forty-three percent of working women without children make health care decisions for others, and 47 percent of women who are not employed and without children make health care decisions for others.

But, most importantly, we have to build strong personal relationships with consumers. To do this, we have to transform the consumer experience. We have to meet consumers where they are, and be available when they need us with simple, affordable solutions. We have to be transparent, and provide tools and resources that help them access the right care so that they feel confident when making health care decisions.

At Aetna, through technology, innovation, understanding what’s important to consumers and by leveraging the insights of  our over 30,000 female employees, we are changing the way we approach the marketplace and care for our customers.