Members of the armed forces for many years have been told they will always have health care available to them. Throughout the years, this care has changed, most recently, from CHAMPUS to TRICARE. The change has not been easy, and unfortunately, not everyone understands why, how, or what the change means.
Rogers (1983) states there are five stages in the innovation-decision process. The stages will be used and combined with the five characteristics of adaptation of an innovation to develop a solution based on the theory of Diffusion of Innovations to engage in a successful marketing effort to military retirees. The five characteristics are relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, triability, and observability.
The nationally available pamphlet that explains TRICARE to beneficiaries who are retirees, can use the theory of diffusion of by first promoting the advantages to the individuals of accepting the new system. It must answer the question "What is in it for me" for the beneficiaries. The pamphlet should then point out how TRICARE can provide a cradle-to-grave health care system in todayís shrinking budgets, making a case for an argument of compatibility. If retirees associate TRICARE with the old cradle-to-grave concept, they may be more likely to adopt TRICARE. Next the pamphlet should be worded in simple non-contrasting terms to make its complexity level low. TRICARE should also allow people a trial visit first, under each option so that beneficiaries could pick the option that was best for them. Finally, the results (observability) to which the TRICARE plan is successful would be visible to other beneficiaries by the simple interface between the TRICARE plans and medical care.
The solution should also focus on the characteristics of the innovation-decision process to ensure adoption of the TRICARE innovation by beneficiaries. These stages are knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation.
Knowledge occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) is exposed to the innovationís existence and gains some understanding of how it functions.
Persuasion occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) forms a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward the innovation.
Decision occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) engages in activities that lead to a choice to adopt or reject the innovation.
Implementation occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) puts an innovation into use.
Confirmation occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) seeks reinforcement of an innovation-decision already made, but he or she may reverse this previous decision if exposed to conflicting messages about the innovation.
Rogers explains that in the knowledge stage many people who know about an innovation (in this case the innovation is knowledge about the concept of TRICARE) may not adopt the concept because they do "not regard it as relevant to his (their) situation, as potentially useful" (Rogers, 1983, p. 169). During the persuasion stage, these individuals "become more psychologically involved with the innovation." They begin to pursue information to learn as much as they can about the idea. Rogers (1983) states this is where they seek the information, what they seek, and how they interpret the information they receive. It is during this stage that individuals form a general perception of the idea. This is important since the way an idea is presented may or may not give the lasting impression to follow the individuals throughout their decision process. Making the TRICARE pamphlet easier to understand and more thorough gives retirees and their families the product to help make an educated choice and relieve some of the stresses caused by changes in their healthcare.
The beneficiaries next move to the decision stage where they start deciding to either "adopt" or "reject" the innovation. Rogers (1983), says that most people will try the new idea on a trial basis before adopting the innovation. This way they know how useful it will be to them. During this stage, Rogers states giving out free samples can help "speed up the rate of adoption" for the new idea. In the case of TRICARE, this method could include distributing health care items along with information (TRICARE pamphlet) on what TRICARE has to offer the individual, and hospitals could hold free screenings in conjunctions with a short TRICARE presentation. Conducting demonstrations on the idea in public places is another method advocated by Rogers. He finds this can be "quite effective, especially if the demonstrator is an opinion leader" (1983, p. 172). Having opinion leaders explain how TRICARE works, how good it is, and why people will benefit from signing up for it can help in the decision making process.
Once people decide they are going to use TRICARE they have to sign up for either TRICARE Prime, or use the other two options in receiving care. According to Rogers, up to this point the "innovation-decision process has been a strictly mental exercise." He states that "it is often one thing for the individual to decide to adopt a new idea, and quite a different thing to put the innovation into use" (1983, p. 174). It is at this stage people are asking where do they sign up, how do they do it, what problems can arise, and how can they solve these problems. Having all of the TRICARE information available, along with personnel to explain the problem to them, is essential if the beneficiaries are going to sign up and be knowledgeable of TRICARE.
The last stage of Rogersí model of innovation-decision process is the confirmation stage. During this stage Rogers states an individual "seeks reinforcement for the innovation decision already made, but he or she may reverse this decision if exposed to conflicting messages about the innovation. The confirmation stage continues after the decision to adopt or reject for an indefinite period in time" (1983, p. 184). Ensuring beneficiaries understand the different types of TRICARE and have materials (such as a newly developed TRICARE pamphlet incorporating these ideas) available to them can remove some of the apprehension and help them choose the plan best suited for them. Without considering these important issues, TRICARE marketing offices are not meeting their goals.