Women As Decision Makers
by Linda Zeigler, RN
Co-director, Picker Family Resource Center
Pen Bay Healthcare
Gone are the days where your grandmother deferred to the opinions of others in matters of healthcare choices. Today’s American woman is the best educated, best financed and most savvy consumer on the face of the planet. It's a fact: women are responsible for 90% of all healthcare decisions (American Academy of Family Physicians). That's right, women control MOST of the purchasing power for household health and wellness products and services--that's 90% of the $150 billion that is spent on health and wellness product and services by U.S. consumers alone. These influential and powerful women are the "Chief Health and Wellness Officers" for their families. Why? Leading research indicates that:
- Women proactively seek medical information for themselves and their loved ones: 9 out of 10 women seek health information via the web (National Marketing Institute).
- Women are more social media savvy than ever: 73% of online women are now active social media users and engage weekly with top social media platforms (Nielsen Company).
- Women influence others to take action: 33% of women with a health condition go online to find other women like them for advice (Pew Internet Research Project).
- Women are the buyers in today’s market. Women wield formidable purchasing power, controlling $5 trillion in spending annually (Vertis Communications).
In addition, women are now making healthcare decisions for themselves, their partners and up to three other generations of their own families. As mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and friends, women are often providers of care for those around them and play a significant role in encouraging their loved ones to seek medical attention.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), women have very distinct views on what they would like from the health care system:
- • 68% want same-day appointments with their primary care physician for unexpected illnesses.
- 63% want a relationship with a doctor who knows their medical history.
- 63% want one doctor who can manage chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease.
- 60% think that technology that allows doctors to send medical records and patient histories to other doctors is extremely important.
- 57% said one doctor who can provide high quality healthcare to all family members regardless of age or gender was extremely important.
- 50% said doctors should be able to send prescriptions to pharmacists electronically.
Women will choose what’s right for them and if the care satisfies them, they will bring their husband and children into the same service. The majority of those women are consulting the Internet for health information. But the Internet represents both a challenge and an opportunity as an information source for busy women. The huge number of websites means that the information women seek may not always be easy to find and may explain why women say they are increasingly turning to family and friends for information and to resources in their own community.
The provider/patient model is changing due to the constraints of the healthcare system and consumer demand. Medical providers have a limited amount of time during a clinical visit to provide all the information or education that a patient may require. This is where the team approach to a patient-centered medical home can help patients access more resources. Pen Bay’s community health team is committed to helping folks find the resources they need and develop self-management skills that enhance the quality of their lives.
At the Picker Family Resource Center and other community health learning centers around the state, women and their families are attending topic-specific programs and classes that provide information or experiences to help guide an informed choice that is the right one for them and their families.
These centers offer opportunities to hear from local experts and attend education programs on conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke or learn how to create an advanced directive. They offer wellness programs like healthy cooking classes, smoking cessation programs, and yoga and meditation classes to help manage stress or other chronic problems. These centers offer movement and music classes for parents and kids, screening clinics and support groups for new moms or for people with specific health issues.
The Picker Family Resource Center is focused on prevention, health maintenance and helping women and their families connect with the care they need. The Picker Center promotes building community by providing health resources and support that serve the needs of women and their families throughout their lives. For more information call 596-8956 or visit www.penbayhealthcare.org/pickercenter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pickercenter.
Linda Zeigler, RN, is co-director of the Picker Family Resource Center on the Pen Bay Medical Center campus. Women’s Health has been at the heart of her nursing practice for over 30 years. Her career spans the fields of Maternal/Child Health, Women’s Health Education, patient navigation and community health improvement planning and services. As the co-director of the Picker Family Resource Center, she collaborates with a team of gifted professionals creating learning opportunities that promote prevention and well being.
“Everyone is looking for good information to help them live healthier lives and make informed choices,” says Zeigler. “They also want to be heard…Whether it’s a puberty workshop for girls and their moms or midlife health guidance or facilitating a support group for women with cancer, it is my privilege to listen to so many remarkable stories and provide resources and support to women and their families.”