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Battling Status Quo Bias with Patient Engagement Marketing


Whether it’s for a routine wellness check or a serious medical issue, some people choose not to go to the doctor even when it clearly benefits their health. Beyond ballooning healthcare costs, a cognitive behavior called the status quo bias can play a key role. This deep-seeded decision-making results in patients concluding that their best choice is to take no action at all. With an understanding of these internal patterns, marketers can craft healthcare campaigns to counteract this phenomenon.

Humans prefer the status quo
Status quo bias is an emotional bias and a preference for the current state of affairs. Humans, at their core, usually resist change. We don’t enjoy uncertainty or risk and only choose it when the benefits are clearly seen. Countless studies show that many people will choose to make no decision instead of changing something for the better. In healthcare, it minimizes the risks associated with change, but it also causes patients to miss out on potential benefits that outweigh those risks.

  • 36% of Americans don’t go to the doctor because they believe nothing is wrong with their health
  • 45% of patients didn’t receive care because of unfavorable valuations or low perceived need to receive medical care

Battling bias with engagement marketing
Being knowledgeable about status quo bias is the best medicine to solve it. A strategic marketing campaign can battle this bias and effectively encourage patients to choose to seek care. With a foundation of information, a campaign can implement strategies to foster true engagement. Engagement isn’t just a goal number of clicks but an authentic, personalized strategy that allows patients to feel comfortable enough to try something new. Marketing can give patients the nudge they need to come in for their wellness visit or finally see the doctor about their chronic health issue. For a successful campaign, patients need to concretely identify how benefits outweigh cons. Healthcare decisions are personal and rely on past experiences with both positive and negative emotions. This nuanced understanding unique to each patient makes combatting status quo bias in healthcare even more challenging. However, marketers can deploy the following strategies to assist in each patient’s decision-making.

Referral marketing
Positive word-of-mouth endorsements is critical in healthcare. Hearing a recommendation whether online or in person from a trusted doctor, family member or friend is one of the best ways to familiarize potential patients with your products and services. 84% of consumers trust the recommendations of others compared to other forms of marketing. Having a source close to the person share information is one way to tip the scales and get patients to reach beyond the status quo. There is a plethora of ways your healthcare company can engage family, friends and medical staff to encourage and refer patients to step out of their comfort zones and make a positive change for their health.

Localized campaigns
80% of consumers prefer locally relevant advertising. A creative, local campaign can engage an individual community, whether in person or online, and can personalize each individual’s experience with your healthcare company. This personalization allows patients to see individualized and unique benefits that directly impact their lives and their community. Soft-selling ideas that warm patients to scheduling appointments and seeking medical treatment help build a foundational layer of trust with patients who are biased against change.

Personalizing doctors and staff
Negative perceptions of doctors are far-reaching and well-documented. There’s even a name for the fear of doctors — Iatrophobia. Employing marketing and public relations tactics that inform communities about their local doctors helps patients see doctors as people too. A campaign humanizing doctors and staff gives patients information they wouldn’t typically receive at an appointment or trip to the hospital. When patients can see doctors and medical staff as people just like them, it builds trust and can open patients’ minds to seeking care.  

Clear information about cost
With the average American spending $11,212 yearly on healthcare, being as transparent as possible about costs is appreciated and respected. In order to build trust with patients, both current and potential, creating clear campaigns offer patients the opportunity to make an informed decision. Again, visibly showing the benefits that patients can receive helps them make the choice to go outside of their comfort zone.

Combatting status quo bias in healthcare is an exciting, multi-faceted marketing challenge. Your healthcare company’s biggest marketing strength is knowing with eyes-wide-open what it’s up against. Being aware of patients’ status quo biases and preference for inaction is necessary data when creating strategies and campaigns that truly engage your target audience. Using personalization, localization and more, your healthcare company can give patients the push they need to step into their unknown. At B&Y, we use these strategic insights to inform our marketing strategies. We have the healthcare marketing expertise to help patients choose your company to tackle their health issues head on.

Curious to learn more about cognitive behavior in healthcare marketing? Just want to chat? We’d love to hear about your company’s marketing challenges!