Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Health Services Research and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Profiling the different needs and expectations of patients for population-based medicine: a case study using segmentation analysis

Federico Lega1* and Alessandro Mengoni2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management, Cergas and Area PMP SDA Bocconi, Bocconi University, Via Rontgen 1, 20136, Milan, Italy

2 ASUR Marche, Via caduti del lavoro 40, 60100, Ancona, Italy

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:473  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-473

Published: 21 December 2012



This study illustrates an evidence-based method for the segmentation analysis of patients that could greatly improve the approach to population-based medicine, by filling a gap in the empirical analysis of this topic. Segmentation facilitates individual patient care in the context of the culture, health status, and the health needs of the entire population to which that patient belongs. Because many health systems are engaged in developing better chronic care management initiatives, patient profiles are critical to understanding whether some patients can move toward effective self-management and can play a central role in determining their own care, which fosters a sense of responsibility for their own health. A review of the literature on patient segmentation provided the background for this research.


First, we conducted a literature review on patient satisfaction and segmentation to build a survey. Then, we performed 3,461 surveys of outpatient services users. The key structures on which the subjects’ perception of outpatient services was based were extrapolated using principal component factor analysis with varimax rotation. After the factor analysis, segmentation was performed through cluster analysis to better analyze the influence of individual attitudes on the results.


Four segments were identified through factor and cluster analysis: the “unpretentious,” the “informed and supported,” the “experts” and the “advanced” patients. Their policies and managerial implications are outlined.


With this research, we provide the following:

– a method for profiling patients based on common patient satisfaction surveys that is easily replicable in all health systems and contexts;

– a proposal for segments based on the results of a broad-based analysis conducted in the Italian National Health System (INHS).

Segments represent profiles of patients requiring different strategies for delivering health services. Their knowledge and analysis might support an effort to build an effective population-based medicine approach.