There are an estimated 58 million Hispanics in the U.S., composing nearly 20% of the population. Hispanics regularly make health choices for themselves and their families and account for approximately $10 billion spending in health, wellness, prescriptions and medicine (Boden). To improve health outcomes, it is essential to understand and to support their healthcare preferences and behaviors.
We sat down with Ruben Maciel, a multicultural communications expert specializing in the US Hispanic Consumer, to discuss effective communications for Hispanic patients. With over 15 years of experience in the field including working with Fortune 500 companies and national medical groups in the development of communications campaigns, Maciel shared some insight about this important and complex segment of the population. He serves on boards and committees including The Latino and African American Leadership Alliance, The American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association, Novo Nordisk Community Diabetes Coalition, The Multiple Sclerosis Society, JDRF and many others.
1. What is the most important thing to consider in campaigns targeting Hispanic consumers?
The Hispanic market is not monolithic. It is essential to know your specific market. We are all from different cultural backgrounds with different levels of acculturation and vary greatly by age, location, education and more. The way we receive information is intricately connected to all these elements. Marketing needs to be localized and targeted.
2. What is the role of language in Hispanic outreach?
Cultural identity goes far beyond language. In marketing to Hispanics, you never want to make assumptions about language preference. Preferences are often driven by the generation. While first generations tend to be greatly bilingual, this preference seems to generally reduce as we go in to second and third generations. However, there are a lot of complexities that determine an individual’s language preference. If you are unsure of the consumers or patients, it is best to ask their preference and allow them to choose or opt-in to Spanish.
Much of the language choice also depends on the medium being used to communicate with the consumer. If it is a Spanish dominant medium, then Spanish is appropriate or often times even Spanglish. If you are unfamiliar with the market, it is best to stay neutral with simple English and an image that resonates. Do not make language assumptions because consumers can be quickly turned off.
3. How does Hispanic outreach differ by age?
Age is an essential factor. It isn’t just a question of age but the way we typically get information. Older generations often prefer Spanish and more traditional outreach. Younger generations or U.S. born millennials are quite different and may get upset getting outreach in Spanish if they did not opt in.
4. What are some key considerations when engaging Hispanic populations?
Know your population, be data driven and plan. First identify the population you are targeting with specific information on the location and demographics. Then know the medium you will use for your information or campaign, optimally continue with a medium that has worked in the past or is where you want to go. Lastly, content is king. Make your content culturally relevant and in the preferred language.
5. How is the healthcare landscape changing for Hispanics?
Healthcare organizations need money to survive. Changes in the Affordable Care Act and financial allocations impact the level of care particularly for safety net populations that rely on Medicare, Medicaid and affordable coverage. How care is structured and where care is available is changing and will continue to impact Hispanics.
6. In your opinion, what are the largest barriers to health care for Hispanic populations?
Healthcare is quite complicated and I think that health information and education are probably the largest challenges. There can be some confusion, doubt and mistrust around the health industry for Hispanics. Oftentimes, it is difficult for patients to understand diseases, medications, ongoing care and more. Due to factors like language, education, or location, it can be particularly difficult for Hispanic populations to access timely and relevant information.
A key to positive outcomes is understanding how to communicate, the depth of information, and the communication vehicle to use. All these are connected to compliance, which means that when improperly applied, compliance can be compromised. Companies that take time to educate and provide ongoing support, keeping in mind culture and language, will have a large impact.
7. What are your recommendations for building the provider and patient relationships?
Generally, for ongoing or complicated care, it is important to get family members involved, and the more the better. Providers should also start with simple or basic information and slowly build the level of knowledge over time. Also, providers should maintain a line of communication open outside of the facility. It is difficult to support compliance and retention without an ongoing connection. If you have the right vehicle, like a texting platform with multicultural insights like amHealth, then you can drive real change and results among diverse populations including Hispanics.