Have you ever tried to explain the concept of an 8-track, a cassette tape, or even a VHS to someone who has only ever known the luxuries of today’s digitally dominant world? Most likely, the conversation begins with laughter at the thought of such ancient technologies. Soon after the laughter subsides, however, the younger, digitally-minded individual’s eyes begin to glaze over and their ears start to tune out this conversation that has now become painfully boring.
In many ways, today’s healthcare system can be likened to a dusty, outdated VCR. The truth is that the basic operations of our existing healthcare system were designed for Baby Boomers. And no disrespect to that generation, but they are as different from Millennials as a VHS is from an online instant movie download.
With such stark contrasts between these generations, what makes us think that Millennials would have any interest in (or positive impressions of) the dated workings of our current healthcare system? It is clear that change must occur in this industry in response to recent demographic shifts.
Many healthcare businesses drag their feet at the thought of catering to Millennials. The heavy foot traffic of Baby Boomers coming through their doors gives the impression that the needs of younger generations are not extremely relevant at this point. This assumption, however, is a dangerous one as reports show that Millennials are now the largest living generation in the US. In fact, by 2020, Millennials will account for one in three of all adults. These numbers prove that the healthcare industry should give more careful thought to the needs of this generation who has essentially taken over the country.
Current Millennial Healthcare Trends
Statistics prove that the Millennial generation considers the healthcare industry to be considerably unattractive and somewhat unnecessary. Here is what we know:
- Half of Millennials visit a doctor less than once per year
- 93% of Millennials do not schedule preventive care visits
- 42% of Millennials report regularly cancelling or missing appointments due to other priorities
Instead of pointing fingers and blaming Millennials for these negative numbers, it’s time to take an objective examination of the current workings of our healthcare system in order to determine why this mass drop-off could be happening (and what must be done to correct it).
What Needs To Change?
There is no doubt about it: The US healthcare system is complex. This is a huge turnoff, especially to Millennials, who have less patience than previous generations. In spite of this, however, there are ways to keep Millennials from feeling the weight of this burden. Healthcare businesses must develop strategies that will help to keep these complexities from disrupting a Millennial’s desire to seek healthcare altogether.
Be transparent about costs.
The top culprit for Millennial healthcare frustration is a lack of cost transparency. According to The Transamerica Center for Health Studies, one in five Millennials is unable to afford routine health care, while 47% must “cut corners” on health care due to rising costs. Unfortunately, this has led to many Millennials forsaking healthcare treatments altogether and instead, relying on Google to diagnose and treat their ailments.
While healthcare businesses cannot do too much about set treatment costs and insurance coverages, they can be more up-front about pricing and insurance’s involvement. This could involve more candid communication prior to a patient’s visit or more detailed cost breakdowns for routine check-ups and procedures. This practice would help to greatly offset any surprise disappointments, which often lead to angry perceptions of the healthcare industry as a whole.
Be transparent about purpose.
A few decades ago, people aimlessly went to the doctor because it was what they knew they were supposed to do. They hung on every word that their physician said since there was no way for them to recap it on their own once they left their appointment.
Nowadays, of course, things are completely different. The Internet has made everyone feel like they are their own physician. And with these modern technology advancements has come with an advanced level of skepticism. Consumers feel that they are owed a detailed explanation of their need for a doctor visit since a quick Google search seems much less time consuming and much more straightforward.
Healthcare businesses can combat this skepticism by being open and honest about the purpose of each appointment. Sharing details that affirm the necessity and benefits of regular doctor visits will cause Millennials to hold physicians and their practices in high regard.
Millennials are accustomed to an on-demand culture, where they can have their needs and desires met at the snap of their fingers. They assume that a lack of punctuality is a sign of disrespect. If the Millennial generation schedules an appointment for 9:00 AM, they expect to be seen at that exact time, not five to ten (to thirty!) minutes later. While it is unrealistic to completely eliminate “waiting” in the healthcare industry, it is not unreasonable for healthcare staffs to brainstorm ways to significantly reduce wait times. If Millennials feel that their time is respected, then they will show respect in return which will keep them coming back.
Modern healthcare procedures are extremely progressive. Technology advancements have made it possible to repair majorly damaged organs through a minor, 0.5 cm incision! If our healthcare system is capable of these modern-day miracles, then why is it that we are still asking patients to print out hard copies of their paperwork and confirm appointments over the telephone? Outdated practices like these seem oxymoronic in an industry as cutting-edge as healthcare!
So, what’s the takeaway here? Think digitally, just like Millennial patients do. Technology actually makes common practices, such as appointment reminders, much easier to accomplish, so healthcare businesses should use this to their advantage. Begin to phase out phone calls, voicemails, and hard copies of paperwork that are delivered via snail mail. Instead, text patients, start an email database, and request forms online through responsive websites. Millennials respect healthcare businesses that speak their digital language. Plus, they may actually show up for their appointment if they receive an email reminder instead of a phone call!
Ask for feedback.
Unfortunately, requesting feedback is often undervalued in the business world. Too many companies believe that it is not worth the hassle and the time it would take to find quality answers. Feedback, however, is a powerful practice that forces businesses to view themselves objectively. Asking patients for their opinions can significantly help healthcare businesses to identify common problems that need solving. Not to mention, this practice will resonate greatly with Millennials who are usually happy to voice their views.
When businesses decide to ask consumers for feedback, it is crucial that they take it seriously. Millennials, especially, want to know that once they verbalize their opinions and share their experiences, businesses are open to change. If healthcare businesses repeatedly ignore quality patient feedback, then many Millennials will notice and see this practice as disingenuous, assuming that this industry may only be “in it for the money,” not for their patients’ wellbeing.
To put it bluntly, Millennials simply do not care about a hospital’s ranking in the community. They are not moved by terms like, “Leading Cancer Center” or “Fastest-Growing Primary Care Clinic.” At the end of the day, Millennials want to know that healthcare businesses are focused on meeting their individual needs, as well as the needs of the community.
Millennials are moved by philanthropic institutions. Healthcare businesses can address this by shedding more light on the charitable causes that they support. This practice produces goodwill in this generation who is most impacted by businesses who are making a difference for the greater good of humanity.
Millennials are growing up and taking over, so it is clear that the healthcare industry must be prepared to make the necessary changes that this generation expects and desires. The healthcare businesses who will experience success in the next few decades will be the ones who place the most focus on overall user experiences. And of course, the tech-savvy, Millennial generation must be anchored at the forefront of their minds.