Change in healthcare is inevitable. With a swell in patient population combined with the declining number of clinicians and physicians, the hourglass of healthcare is about to be upended. What is largely unspoken though is the expectation that this younger generation will naturally be highly engaged. With immediate gratification being a key characteristic among this generation, is patient engagement possible? And if so, what will that look like?
Patient care starts with recognizing the consumer audience. Senior citizens will follow physician orders without question. Baby Boomers are more likely to debate their doctor and dispute every step on the road to recovery. Generation X is known to educate themselves before consulting their physician. And Millennials see any form of contact beyond online chat as “last century.”
The Millennials are the group that has grown up with technological engagement, computers and tablets as the normalcy, and the Internet being perceived as a “one stop shop” for anything you could ever need. Individuals believe they can diagnose themselves with resources from sites such as WebMD, iTriage, or one of the new startups in this field, uGoHealth, where symptom information is available day and night. Instead of saving their concerns for their annual check-up, Millennials simply expect to download an application to their smart phone, list their symptoms, and have their prescription sent to their neighborhood pharmacy for pick-up by early afternoon.
This extreme mindset shift will label many healthcare providers as obsolete. So instead of physicians expecting regular, routine checkups, constant proactive outreach to their patients will be critical. Millennials will be motivated to take charge of their healthcare by reaching out to their providers with questions ready, but this must be a symbiotic relationship. Providers and physicians should be sending regular updates and check-ins to ensure that healthcare stays top of mind. Different channels should be utilized as this generation is receptive to many forms of communication, the least of which being face-to-face.
This generation is one known for questioning authority and rebelling against sovereign prerogatives. With that in mind, health practitioners must instill a sense of control to achieve desired healthcare results. So to accomplish these results, health practitioners must instill a sense of control for those in this younger generation, or at least acknowledge that their voices are being heard. Millennials will engage with whatever technology is available, so it is the industry’s obligation as a whole to provide technology that is easily accessible, highly effective, and effortlessly efficient.