Millennials push healthcare industry to create patient-friendly solutions
Whether you care to acknowledge it or not, Millennials are increasingly driving companies and industries forward and forcing them to rethink the way they operate. For the healthcare executive, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.
As new generations form, they view the world through a certain, and often differing, lens and seek to make the world reflect that view. Enter Millennials. Some might call them lazy, narcissistic or “Generation Me.” Regardless of personal sentiments, Millennials are interested in making a difference by using their unique experiences and values to have a positive effect on people’s lives.
The healthcare industry is no exception, and a Millennial’s view and approach to health is different than previous generations. For Millennials, the future must include a more high-touch and customer-centric patient experience. With this in mind, there are important lessons healthcare executives should consider.
How can healthcare providers attract, engage and serve Millennials and achieve the desired trifecta of improving health outcomes, bettering patient care and lowering costs? Let’s consider a few key areas that are ripe for change.
Statistics show Millennials desire a partnership and open communication with their physicians. They also love technology, but only if it’s used in a personally productive and non-exploitative way, a level of trust that’s earned over time. With the implementation of EMRs and patient portals, the industry has never been better positioned to promote better physician/patient collaboration and relationships. However, often these tools actually end up deterring engagement and trumping personal connection between physician and patients, with emails and push notifications to log in, view lab/visit results or schedule a visit. This is inconsistent with how Millennials view engagement and desired value. Technology should foster a mutually beneficial relationship between patient and primary care physician.
For a millennial, an ideal experience for a wellness visit would include discussing healthy diet and exercise patterns and setting goals that can be tracked on already-used health apps and wearable devices that can be shared for a more proactive and holistic view of patterns between annual/semi-annual visits. Ultimately, this leads to visits becoming less directive in nature and more consultative and collaborative. This all implies that physicians have efficient and effective ways to access patient information in the aggregate, a clear challenge to the ways in which data is currently organized and disseminated in the industry.
Without a more patient-centric approach, we may see a surge of millennial patients forced into a system they’ve avoided; trying to address what could have been a preventable health problem. Consider how that might affect a health organization’s bottom line.
Speed, Convenience and Access
Millennials value convenience, especially in mobile form. Provider practices and organizations that act quickly could reap a significant competitive advantage, and more importantly, win millennial loyalty. What offerings should practices consider to get a millennial’s attention? Here are a few examples:
Online Appointment Scheduling
Integrating an online appointment scheduling feature into a practice website is an easy and convenient way to give patients control for when and where they want to go and enhance the overall patient experience. From a bottom line perspective, these small but powerful conveniences are important if providers want to convert Millennials into patients. The more modern the web presence and the easier it is for Millennials to engage, the more likely they are to set up an appointment.
Online Check-In and Queue Management
Part of the typical frustration with doctor visits, for any generation, is the lack of clear expectations for wait-time. Adopting an online queue management solution will give patients clarity on how much time they have, updates on changes and the ability to determine when to head to the doctor’s office. If the Department of Motor Vehicles can provide this service, so can medical practices.
If Millennials are required to update things like medical history, demographic and insurance information, they prefer it to be in digital form. If it’s not possible to update from a phone or tablet, self-service kiosks in the doctor’s office would provide the ability to securely submit and save information for simple review and confirmation at any returning visit.
Virtual care is growing in popularity as Millennials and patients of all ages seek more convenient and affordable access to care. They want innovations for how to connect with providers; potentially eliminating in-person visits entirely, if appropriate. While online diagnosis and treatment aren’t available for all symptoms and conditions, it will be available for many of the common ailments that Millennials face.
Unlike their parents, most Millennials don’t have a strong relationship with a primary care physician. Additionally, they’re generally distrustful of a hospital’s ability to provide cost-effective and convenient care, making them more likely to seek out alternatives like retail clinics or urgent care. For providers that aim to attract and retain Millennials, utilizing and promoting an after-hours clinic or urgent care services is crucial for the future of care; but that’s just the starting point. These after-hours clinics or urgent care locations must be high-tech facilities that offer online appointment scheduling, virtual consultations, heath concierges and wellness services in addition to basic medical testing services.
Transparency – Physician Quality and Care Costs
Millennials have grown up with more marketing and sales noise than any other generation. Not just billboards, but pop-ups, radio ads, TV ads, games with ads, product placements, etc. Additionally, they’ve grown up amidst the Crash of 2008 and the Great Recession, and tend to be tight with their wallets in general. At the same time, most Millennials take pride in the businesses, brands and products they engage with and value. If Millennials don’t trust advertisements, the information they provide or the motives of the companies that produced them, whom do they trust? Themselves and their peers. Don’t forget, Millennials are digital natives, and the Internet is second nature and information has always been at their fingertips.
Additionally, family, friends and various digital/social platforms are used to seek the truth, cutting through misinformation or hints of lies. How does this influence Millennial expectations when it comes to healthcare?
A millennial’s entire purchasing pattern hinges on transparency and openness of information as they seek to manage their healthcare. At this point, however, researching physician/provider quality and overall patient satisfaction is overly complicated and almost a bit of a black box, minus the government and some lightly-used physician review and rating websites. Is it reasonable to expect Millennials to be okay with this pattern continuing? In short, no. Patients of all ages would agree that medical costs are absurd with or without Obamacare. So as Millennials consider seeking care, they expect information to be available that will help them assess and compare physician value (combination of care quality and affiliated price/costs) and estimate care costs before ever stepping into an office. Pricing information already exists between health plans and providers.
Additionally, on the quality side, information is also available for those physicians that participate in a health plan’s PCMH-related incentive programs. Millennials have grown up being able to compare everything they purchase, from plane tickets and hotel rooms to, most recently, health insurance. Why should healthcare providers be any different? Provide online and mobile tools that allow Millennials to be an informed consumer and empowered to seek their best interests.
When it comes to healthcare, Millennials have seen what their parents and grandparents dealt with: endless paperwork, unexplainably high care costs, physicians seemingly geared more toward profit than patient well-being, and there are 83+ million Millennials that don’t like what they see. Just like Millennials called for change and disruption in many other industries, now it is healthcare’s turn.