••• health care research

Seeking pain relief wherever they can find it

Study names 5 pain management trends

While everyone experiences occasional moments of temporary discomfort for the sake of personal growth, marketing research firm Packaged Facts estimates that over the past year there were 105 million American adults – equivalent to 42 percent of the age 18+ population – suffering from the type of debilitating pain that impedes rather than improves quality of life. The findings are based on a consumer survey published in the new report Pain Management in the U.S.: Consumer Strategies.

For the average adult, quality of life has obvious significance. While a universal definition of quality of life may prove elusive, it strongly relates to personal health, comfort and happiness, with higher quality of life translating to higher degrees of these qualities.

Pain, when it is not effectively treated and relieved, has a detrimental effect on all aspects of quality of life. This negative impact has been found to span every age and every type and source of pain in which it has been studied, notes Packaged Facts.

“Incidence of pain in the U.S. is widespread, indicating a significant market for any type of pain relieving remedy,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Pain management and understanding the options available is paramount for the millions of pain sufferers in need of remedies that alleviate their symptoms and help restore everyday functioning.”

Here are five top trends in pain management for 2017, according to Packaged Facts:

1. Growth in alternative therapies. While alternative therapies are certainly not new, they are an emerging trend in the U.S. as consumers embrace a natural lifestyle approach to health and wellness. The strong relief ratio achieved by these providers fuels this trend and the popularity of these health care specialists will likely continue to grow. As of 2016, roughly 23 percent of adults trust homeopathic medicine and 22 percent prefer alternative medicine to standard medical practices. 

Further, the survey found that among adults who suffered from debilitating pain within the past year, 68 percent visited a traditional health care professional such as a family/general practice doctor or specialized doctor. However, nearly four out of 10 sufferers visited an alternative health care provider, such as an acupuncturist, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc. – a point that shows strong acceptance of alternative methods, whether used in place of traditional health care or in tandem.

2. Heavier focus on health and diet. Health and diet considerations play a key role in helping consumers manage their pain. Indeed, food and diet are considered part of 45 percent of pain sufferers’ preferred approach to managing minor everyday pain and 23 percent of their preferred approach to managing the “worst pain imaginable.” 

Further, consumers are hungry for information and tools that can help them lead healthier, more productive, more fulfilled lives – a hunger that only increases among those challenged by illness and pain because they are that much further removed from those intuitively human goals. Health and diet tools – ranging from vitamins and supplements to functional foods and beverages to organic and natural and beyond – have a significant role to play in satiating that hunger and achieving the universal goal of a more fulfilled life. 

3. Exercise and weight management part of broader treatment. While weight management is a challenge for many, it is more prevalently so among those challenged by pain-centric illnesses and conditions. Illness and the pain associated with it can curtail activity, from everyday functions to specific behaviors closely associated with health and wellness. Exercising regularly takes a hit, as does the ability to control weight, and the likelihood of being overweight skyrockets.

Nevertheless, when paired with diet and healthy lifestyle efforts, incorporating moderate bouts of exercise to manage weight can be part of a broader pain management treatment strategy as excess weight can compound or exacerbate already existing pain. 

4. Rising interest in homeopathic and functional pain medication. Consumers want products to be multifunctional and pain relievers are no different. Pain sufferers exhibit significant interest in retail products that can help treat their pain while featuring value-added functional claims. 

Makers and marketers should consider adding homeopathic or herbal qualities that can help users feel like they are doing something healthy for their entire body and not just eradicating their pain. The aromatherapy and essential oils market has gathered steam from the natural health and wellness megatrend.

5. Caffeine for more than just coffee. While the power of caffeine continues to drive sales of coffee and energy drinks, sating the appetites of consumers seeking an energy boost, it is also recognized as a pain remedy, particularly for migraines. For example, consider Excedrin Extra Strength, which promises that its “combination of active ingredients – acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine – offer a fast-acting, non-prescription headache pain reliever alternative.”

Studies also suggest that caffeine has a broader scope of pain reduction potential, ranging from serving as a useful complement to opioid analgesic use among patients with advanced cancer to complementing acetaminophen in addressing acute back pain.

••• media research

TV anywhere, everywhere

Millennials make up nearly half of the U.S. ‘cordless’

When it comes to TV and video content, Millennials refuse to be tied down – with cable cords, telephone wires or any other conventional delivery “pipe.”

According to GfK MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer, which surveys around 25,000 people in-person annually, Millennials (ages 18 to 34) account for 43 percent of the “cordless” population – those who have never had cable, satellite or fiber optic TV service and those who have cut the cord. That is by far the largest generational subsection of the cord-free group. Almost one-third (30 percent) of all U.S. Millennials are cordless, compared to just 16 percent of Boomers.

These untethered Millennials turn to streaming for TV and video, spending two-thirds (65 percent) of their viewing time streaming via a TV set or other device. That is almost double the proportion for cordless Boomers (36 percent), who instead spend the majority (56 percent) of their viewing time watching live TV on a TV set over the airwaves.

GfK MRI also found that, compared to all Millennials, those who have cut the cord are more likely to use some key streaming entities. Their favorites are fairly standard – YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime – but they also over-index for smaller entities like Crunchy Roll (241), Twitch (167) and the Adult Swim App (146).

Cordless Millennials place a premium on being independent, preferring to watch TV or video whenever and wherever they want. They are most likely to define “TV” as anything they can watch on any device – a TV, laptop, smartphone or tablet. And when they sit down to watch TV or video, they are most likely to go to a specific show on a streaming service – with one-third (34 percent) of cord-free Millennials citing this as their default viewing strategy.

The study also shows that Millennials are hard to reach because they are 44 times more likely to be cord-free than the average U.S. consumer. Cordless Millennials also do not use much media except for Internet – they are heavy streamers and heavy binge-viewers but light on overall TV watching.

“One in three Millennials is living without a cord – so understanding this population is a major priority for advertisers and marketers,” says Karen Ramspacher, SVP of consumer insights and trends at GfK MRI. “These viewers are huge fans of quality programming and content but they are not fond of being told where, when and how they should watch it. They view streaming services as well worth the money and producers of the best shows ‘on TV.’ Appealing to this unusual combination of untethered living and discernment about content represents a sweet spot for marketers representing millions of brands worldwide.”

••• health care research

Your money or your life?

Large medical bill seen as worse than serious illness

Americans are concerned about health care costs and coping in a variety of ways, some of which might not be sustainable in the long run (for instance, avoiding the doctor), according to a study conducted by researcher Ipsos for Amino, a San Francisco-based health care information company. However, almost half of Americans are currently budgeting at least $50 per month for health care so there’s hope that the category could become a more prominent personal finance issue as better and more accessible transparency tools emerge.

Generally, as health care costs rise, so do Americans’ fear and confusion. Three-quarters (74 percent) say their health care costs have gone up in the past few years. More than half (53 percent) perceive being diagnosed with a serious illness as being just as bad as receiving a large medical bill that they can’t afford. An additional 10 percent think receiving a large medical bill is actually worse than a serious illness. 

Unemployed people (63 percent), people over 55 years old (63 percent) and lower-income earners (60 percent) are the most likely groups to find a large medical bill more or equally detrimental to being diagnosed with a serious illness. Alongside fear there is confusion: 64 percent of Americans want to lower their health care costs but don’t know how. 

The majority of Americans have received medical bills they couldn’t afford. Over half (55 percent) say they have received a medical bill that they did not have funds set aside to pay at some point. Women (62 percent) are more likely to report that they have received a medical bill they couldn’t afford, as compared to (47 percent) of men.

Today, more than one-third of Americans (37 percent) say they could not afford an unexpected medical bill for more than $100 without going into debt. 

Nearly half of women (44 percent) would go into debt if they received an unexpected medical bill of $100 or more, as compared to one in four men (27 percent). With the cost of health care rising, fewer than one in four Americans (23 percent) are able to cover an unexpected medical bill more than $2,000.

When it comes to avoiding high medical bills, maintaining good insurance coverage (39 percent) is the top strategy used by Americans. Yet roughly half (49 percent) agree that their insurance doesn’t provide them with enough information to determine their health care costs. Millennials (57 percent) are among the most likely to agree.

And less than a third (32 percent) currently contribute to a health savings account (HSA) that allows them to save money tax-free for medical expenses.

More than half of people (55 percent) call ahead to ask medical providers about the cost of treatment before booking an appointment or procedure. 

One in five (19 percent) report that not going to the doctor is their main strategy to avoid paying high medical bills. 

More than half of people without insurance (56 percent) avoid the doctor altogether. Millennials (27 percent) are also a group more likely to avoid costs by avoiding the doctor.

But Americans aren’t trying everything to lower their bills, as only 7 percent of people would research doctors, facilities or costs ahead of time to avoid high bills. Less than half (46 percent) of Americans budget at least $50 per month for health care. They are more likely to be budgeting at least $50 monthly for food (79 percent), transportation (59 percent) and debt payments (49 percent) 

Those who have received an unexpected medical bill in the past are significantly more likely to budget for their health and medical expenses (54 percent) than those who have not (37 percent). 

For those who do budget for their health care, 34 percent save for doctor visits and services, 28 percent for prescription drugs and 28 percent insurance premiums. 

Americans are most concerned about the cost of major surgeries or emergencies (33 percent), yet only 15 percent are setting aside funds for such unexpected health costs. Insurance premiums (24 percent) are also top ranked in terms of Americans’ concerns around rising health care costs. 

Neglecting to save for medical expenses may be partially explained by lack of awareness. For example, the median network rate (what a patient plus their insurance company would pay combined) to fix a broken arm in America is $1,100, yet most Americans (46 percent) estimate it costs less than $500. Only 7 percent of Americans estimated within the correct price range.

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted February 23-24, 2017 on behalf of Amino. For the survey, a nationally representative sample of 1,006 U.S. adults over the age of 18 was interviewed online, in English. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents surveyed.

••• hospitality research

Room for more communication

Hoteliers outline guest-service gaps

A survey of 72 global hotel brands by Santa Clara, Calif., communications firm Avaya highlights current gaps and opportunities in engaging and retaining guests. Survey respondents aligned around three particular issues as they seek to improve the guest experience: guest engagement, communication and services. Many companies, however, are seeing significant opportunities by taking advantage of mobile, multichannel communications for both guests and staff and updating standard, in-room devices with new applications and capabilities. 

Gap #1: Engaging guests. Fifty-five percent of hospitality companies say they struggle to engage their guests during the booking process, while 70 percent say they struggle during and after the visit. 

Gap #2: Communication between guests and staff leaves a lot to be desired. Sixty percent of survey respondents say the inability of their staff to effectively communicate with guests is a “main factor” diminishing the guest experience at their properties. 

Gap #3: Service(s), please. Sixty-two percent of global respondents said the quality of the guest experience at their properties would be significantly improved by enhanced in-room and on-property guest services.

As for the opportunities, since most guests are on the move during their stay – as well as a large portion of the staff dedicated to serving them – respondents recognize that mobile apps offer an opportunity for improving service (48 percent). In fact, 81 percent of respondents are planning to create high-functioning apps over the next five years. 

Sixty-nine percent of respondents find value in an updated room phone that would become key to a fully-integrated digital experience, with 11 percent of those seeing large potential when it’s connected to a guest’s mobile device.

••• mothers research

Mama’s always online

New moms flock to the Web

To find out how a major life event changes the way consumers interact with online content, Verto Analytics conducted a study of new mothers in the U.K., defined as women who reported having at least one child under 18 months old, and compared their online behavior to those of the general adult population in the U.K. (ages 18 and older) to determine if there was a significant difference in their daily digital behaviors.

As detailed in a blog post by the firm’s Connie Hwong, the firm found, unsurprisingly, that new mothers wake up and get online early: they start using mobile apps by 5 a.m., and activity peaks between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Web site activity on PCs peaks in the late evening, at around 8 p.m. – presumably after the babies have been put to bed.

New mothers are well connected: Verto Analytics data shows that new mothers have higher device ownership across most of the digital device types when compared to the general population. In addition to having an especially high rate of smartphone ownership (96 percent of new mothers report owning a smartphone, compared to just 71 percent of the population), they also index particularly high on home entertainment devices such as video game consoles, smart TVs and streaming media players.

New moms tend to use search, shopping and social media Web sites most. How do new mothers spend their time online? Based on the data, the following Web sites and app categories are among the most popular among new mothers: search and reference (e.g., Wikipedia, Answers.com and Google); shopping (e.g., Amazon, eBay and Boots.com); and social and communications (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest). 

This also aligns with trends observed among the general population. However, while search/reference, shopping and social media Web sites have a slightly lower reach among new mothers compared to the general population, they all account for a greater share of the amount of time that new mothers spend online.

New moms spend more time online. The study data shows that new mothers spend more hours online per month than the average online user, regardless of which device they’re using. On average, new mothers spend more than 112 hours per month online via PC (20 percent more than the general population) and nearly 76 hours per month online via mobile device (10 percent more than the general population). New mothers index especially high in time spent on PCs, as their online engagement tends to be dominated by web usage rather than app interaction.

New moms prefer social platforms with privacy controls. Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have higher-than-average reach among new mothers compared to the general population, while major social media properties such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter index lower. Notably, Google+ and Pinterest also index high among new mothers.

The firm’s takeaway on social usage among new moms? Social media platforms that allow a consumer to control access/viewership to content or share content with a smaller subgroup (such as family members or friends) appear to be more popular among new mothers, while more public forums, such as Twitter, hold less appeal.