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Patient Engagement: Crossing the Generational Divide

By: Nextech | June 17th, 2016

Patient Engagement: Crossing the Generational Divide Blog Feature

Results from Medscape Education’s two-year study on generational factors and their impact on patient engagement reveals that providers need to help equip patients across generations with the skill set for shared decision-making concerning their health.

Each generation has its own set of values, communication style and expectations about their approach to health and relationships with their providers. Therefore, specialty providers must first understand the different expectations and unique needs of their multigenerational patients in order to deliver the right information and support needed to fully participate in their care.Generational-Gap.jpg

Patient-centered care starts with recognizing the unique patients in your practice. Providers who don’t play by the rules of engagement risk losing patient loyalty. Another recent survey found that patients are as likely to switch healthcare providers as they are hotels if the service is poor quality. This is especially true in specialty practices, especially in plastic surgery, where services are largely elective.

Below are brief profiles of generational archetypes and their influence on healthcare.

Millennials: “Connect with me”

Millennials are 20 and 30-somethings, born between 1982 and 2000. They’re tech savvy and have grown up in a world that is connected and always accessible. Not only do they use and appreciate technology, but they also value health information and seek it from multiple sources. This generation will look for tools that connect them to their personal health and their physicians. That said, specialty practices need to ensure they are properly engaging with patients in real-time, leveraging functionalities such as online appointment scheduling, mobile appointment reminders, online payment options and more.

Generation X: “Educate me”

Generation X, born between 1961 and 1981, tend to be very independent and learn as they go, rather than relying on a lot of instruction. They look to get privately educated before asking their doctor questions. This generation is also one that is more likely to switch providers based on their most recent experience rather than on overall past experience. Practices need to ensure they are providing these patients with educational information prior to procedures. One way to do this is to offer individualized educational materials within an integrated patient portal while ensuring that the patient portal is easy to access.

Boomers: “Engage me”    

Born between 1943 and 1960, Baby Boomers tend to have good communication skills and emotional maturity. Raised to “question authority,” they value individual engagement in healthcare — as well as a good debate. This generation is therefore more likely to seek counsel from their provider and then further research what comes out of that dialog. However, many within this age set are less apt to demand technology-enabled patient communications. For instance, in an ophthalmology practice, where there is a large portion of elderly patients, it is necessary to engage with patients one-on-one, whether that means walking them through the patient portal during their visit or leveraging mobile solutions that do not interfere with patient/provider face-time during the appointment.

Overall, consumers – no matter their age – want responsiveness and convenience, such as the ability to get an appointment quickly, to have access to their personal health information and to get more face time with their doctor. Leveraging innovative technology to reach and uniquely engage patients will not only win patient loyalty, but also bring specialty practices significant financial benefits.