Online health is still about women

screenshot_264POST SUMMARY: Among women across markets, regardless of their marital status and whether they have children, 94 percent make decisions for themselves and 59 percent make healthcare decisions for others. Among those who work and have children under the age of 18, 94 percent make decisions for others. These decision makers, whom we call the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs)** of the family, comprise the industry’s core consumer segment, as they set the health and wellness agenda for themselves and others, choose treatment regimens, and hire and fire doctors, pharmacists, and insurance providers.

To engage this market segment, healthcare companies must first understand that women define health much more broadly than “freedom from illness and healthrisks.” Fully 79 percent of women in the multimarket sample say that health means “having spiritual and emotional wellbeing;” 77 percent cite “being physically fit and well rested.

Healthcare companies must revise their marketing analyses to focus 53% on the combination of career and family responsibilities that differentiate women as CMOs. Life-stage analyses fail to capture what these women’s needs are, let alone how to meet them. By looking at women’s varying life situations, we surface three profound famines: time, knowledge, and trust.


Women are starved for time. The vast majority of women—77 percent—don’t do what they know they should do to stay healthy because, according to 62 percent, they lack the time. Fully 78 percent of working women with children under 18 who aren’t maintaining their health as they think they should chalk it up to a lack of time.

For most women in the multimarket sample, trust is also in very short supply. Seventy-eight percent do not fully trust their insurance provider; and 83 percent do not fully trust pharmaceutical companies. Only 65 percent trust their physicians—given that physicians are considered to be the most trusted representative in healthcare, it’s surprising that the number isn’t higher.


Women also lack knowledge. They’re bombarded with information, but don’t know what to believe or trust: although 53 percent of women think they can get the best health information online, only 31 percent of these women trust the information they find online. Fully 73 percent of women told us that it is very important to them to be knowledgeable about keeping themselves and their loved ones healthy. But they are not. While 53 percent of working women with kids under 18 (who are the most likely of our female market segments to be CMOs) say they are knowledgeable about keeping themselves and their loved ones healthy, only 38 percent of working women with kids under 18 passed our health literacy quiz.

Trusting relationships with healthcare professionals and the organizations they represent would go a long way toward bolstering women’s confidence. To address women’s lack of trust in the message and the messenger, doctors, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance providers need to change their behaviors