Why healthcare must harness the power of female consumers

It's clear that women are the primary healthcare decision-makers for themselves and their families, according to a recent survey, but healthcare organizations could do more to understand and cater to this powerful demographic.

The Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit think tank based in New York City, conducted the multi-market survey, which included 9,218 respondents (4,546 men and 4,672 women) from the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and Brazil. Of those respondents, 59 percent of women indicated that they make healthcare decisions for others, a share that jumps to 94 percent for women who work and have children younger than 18. Thus, the survey calls these women the "chief medical officers of their families."

However, while 94 percent of women said they make healthcare decisions for themselves, the survey found that many lack the resources to execute them. Sixty-two percent of women said they lack the time to figure out what they should do to stay healthy, and more than half who are the CMOs of their families lack confidence in their decision-making. Furthermore, only 65 percent trust their doctors, and a large proportion of respondents distrust insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies.

"This lack of trust is symptomatic of a much more systemic affliction: despite reams of market research, the industry doesn't understand, respond to, or engage constructively with the female consumers," Sylvia Ann Hewlett, CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, wrote in an opinion piece for the Huffington Post.

Part of the problem is that many clinical trials either include too few women or fail to account for gender differences, she writes. Also, while women make up the majority of healthcare workers, they are still grossly underrepresented in the C-suite for a variety of reasons.

One obvious solution is to include more women in healthcare leadership ranks, Hewlett writes. However, it's also imperative that doctors, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies and insurers engage in trust-building behaviors such as offering clear and comprehensive information as well as top-notch customer service and ongoing communication, the survey found.

To learn more:
- here are the survey results (.pdf)
- read the opinion piece