Is the Male “Customer” a Red Herring (in Healthcare)?

If you haven’t paid attention, the gender inequity in salaries in some areas seems to be broken.  For city-dwelling single people in their 20s, females median full-time income is 108% of their male counterparts (Reach Advisors research of 2008 Census Bureau data).

And, if you look at the statistics from “The Rise of the Sheconomy” in Time (11/22/10), the statistics paid a clear picture of change:

  • 35% of women (vs. 27% of men) ages 25-29 hold a bachelor degree or higher
  • Women hold 49.6% of non-farm jobs in the US
  • Women own 29% of companies
  • 64% of women with children under age 6 also work outside the home
  • Women make up 58% of online retail dollars spent
  • Women make 80% of healthcare decisions
  • Women purchased 45% of electronics
  • Women make up 44% of NFL fans
  • Women control 51.3% of the private wealth in the US
  • 35% of wives earn more than their husbands
  • 9 out of the 10 occupations predicted to add jobs in the next 8 years are dominated by women

You shouldn’t be surprised by this.  I personally have several friends that are the stay-at-home dads.  I worked for a women who had “never” been to a grocery store.  And, I know a lot of women who could tell you more about professional football than I could.  (Here’s an older list of facts.)

“Get the guy right and you’ve made a sale; get the woman right and you have a customer.”  (From Marti Barletta in the Time article)

So, will that play out in healthcare or has that ship sailed a long-time ago?  If females make 80% of the decisions, do you really need a male strategy?

Females accounted for 57 percent of all personal healthcare spending in 2004, although they made up just 50 percent of the U.S. population. Across all payers and services, females spent about $1,448 more per capita on healthcare than males in 2004. The greatest disparity was in nursing home care, where females spent nearly twice what males spent.

The gender divide in share of total spending should not come as a complete surprise, because women have a longer life expectancy (80.4 years compared to 75.2 years for men).

The estimates were based on administrative data from Medicare’s National Claims History Files, the Medicaid Statistical Information System and the Medicaid Analytic Extract System. (Source)

At the same time, we know that…

Men Frequently Ignore Symptoms and Are Reluctant to Seek Care Until There Is a Crisis

“Health, United States, 2009,” reports that men from ages 18-44 years were 70 percent less likely to visit a physician in 2007. The report also indicates that men were 80 percent less likely to have a usual source of health care, as compared to women. (source)

So, what does this all mean?  It means that males still represent about 1/2 the healthcare costs although it appears their use of the system is either prompted by a female in their live (wife, mother, sister, friend, caregiver) or by the fact that there is a crisis.  This plays well into the quote about targeted “shopping” versus looking for a relationship.

One could assume that means that males are more likely to use urgent cares and/or clinics…but I couldn’t find that data.

Getting males to be more preventative is one challenge.

Getting them to view a health plan or pharmacy as more tailored to their needs is another.

Is it worth the money and effort or should you (as a healthcare company) appeal only to the females?  I’m not sure I know the answer, but the data certainly points you in a direction.  It would be interesting to look at conditions that are primarily male or drugs that are tailored to male conditions and understand how females drive those decisions and utilization (knowing that a lot probably has to do with whether it’s asymptomatic or not.

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