Treating the millennial patient – 5 best practice strategies

Treating the millennial patient – 5 best practice strategies

As a practicing doctor, you will have noticed that treating the millennial patient is very different from previous generations. Gone are the days of what the doctor says goes and there’s good reason for that. Millennials have instant, direct access to vast amounts of services and information from their mobile devices. They navigate the world differently from their parents, and as a result, their needs are different.

You might wonder what that has to do with you and your practice, but the reality is that not only are these patients actively shaping the way healthcare is accessed and delivered, but they’ll soon be your predominant client base. The inherent risk in not meeting millennials needs is that you will lose them as patients, and your revenue will suffer.

So, what are millennials needs? They can be summarised as: make me part of it, be transparent with me, make my life easier, give me a good experience, and be relevant to me in terms of where I’m at. Now the question is, if these are their needs, what can you do at your practice to resonate more with these patients and ultimately, retain them as clients?

Treating the millennial patient strategy 1: Embrace inclusion

The first strategy you can implement when treating the millennial patient in the consultation process. That speaks to the ‘make me part of it’ need. Electronic patient records is a good way to involve your patient because this generation will engage with you about that data – their data. These are the same people using wearables to track their sleep and activity. It’s important to them that you make statistics available to them and talk to them about what different metrics mean and how they are interrelated.

Basically, they don’t just want to know that they have to take the blue pill. They want to know what the blue pill does, where does it come from, what are the side effects, and is there a red pill alternative? Involving them in their health records is both a way to satisfying their innate curiosity, but an opportunity for you to get better compliance out of them once they leave your practice.  

Think of the example of a chronic patient who’s not sticking to their medication regime. If you engage with them about their pathology test results and what they mean, you’ll have more impact when explaining to them how the medicine works. Then, because they prefer to communicate electronically, you follow up with them by way of a reminder SMS to have a blood test every six months, you will be meeting where they are at. These few steps are more likely to result in a better doctor-patient relationship, active participation in managing their health, better compliance and finally, better patient outcomes.

Treating the millennial patient strategy 2: Be transparent

There are two ways to be transparent while treating the millennial patient. The first is financially and the other is with your online presence.

Speaking to the first point, millennials are by nature very cost conscious, given the higher levels of debt they contend with. They are going to react badly if they think they’re being hoodwinked. Using tools like automated benefit checks, for example, is a way to be upfront with them about fees and billing before they see the doctor. This is very different from the older generation who react badly if you attempt a financial discussion, even before treatment, but millennials appreciate this kind of candid information.  

The second way to improve your transparency is ensure your practice is searchable online. I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that at least 27% of millennials consult with Dr Google before seeing you. They will come to you with  pre-conceived ideas and opinions and a lot of questions. The best way to deal with this is 1. embrace it, because it is going to happen and 2. make sure your practice can be found when they are doing a Google search.

Take Facebook for example. Many of you might think of it as a social media platform, but it’s actually a hybrid between that and a search engine. People are searching for services, recommendations and reviews on Facebook.

Typical Facebook conversations between millennials say things like:  

“Hi, can anyone recommend a good physio in the area? Would be great if they accept medical aid.”

“Has anyone been to the doc at the medical centre on Kelvin Drive? Looking for a GP closer than the current one.”

“Dr Brink is amazing with babies. Highly recommend.”

From these few examples you can see that sharing names, contact information and reviews online is commonplace and predominantly how they get information. In any business, and especially your practice, word of mouth referrals are a powerful means to growing your business. It could go the other way and work against you of course but we’ll talk more about that in later.

Treating the millennial patient strategy 3: Make their lives easier

Millennials are busy. They want convenience and they want it now. For them, things like online patient booking platforms are a very welcome addition to a practice because they can make an appointment from anywhere, on their phone, for a time they’ve chosen.

Millennials also like automatic patient check-ins, e-scripting and pre-packed medicines ready for collection at their preferred pharmacy. They also appreciate extended operating hours because again, it’s another way you are making their lives easier.  

Treating the millennial patient strategy 4: Give them a good experience

This ties in with strategy 3 and the power of referrals. It’s important to give patients a good experience because millennials are twice as likely to trust a personal recommendation when it comes to finding a doctor. You really can’t underestimate that – good reviews will mean more patients, and good reviews are a product of a good experience.

So, what is a good experience? It has a lot to do with convenience and efficiency. And we’re talking about streamlining your appointment booking process to offer patient-led online appointment bookings. Being on time with appointments. Easy and varied payment options, like Snapscan for example. Electronic communications, like emailed invoices and statements and automated SMS reminders. Technology like this enhance the experience of your practice in line with millennials expectations.

Treating the millennial patient strategy 5: Meet them where they are at  

It’s a hot topic at the moment, but these are also the people that would be curious about telemedicine or virtual appointments. Accessing their health record from their mobile phone and giving the doctor access remotely are not things they are adverse to. Nor is Whatsapping you to talk about their symptoms or ask questions. Obviously you need to control how you use those channels to comply with the regulatory environment, but essentially, your patients could quite happily have a Google Hangouts conversation with you, particularly in situations when an in person consultation is inconvenient or routine.  

Implementing these 5 strategies are opportunities to align your practice to the needs of this growing client base to build your business and provide a better service. Technology is an enabler as much in healthcare as any other industry. Taking the decision to adopt the technology is really a decision to have the tools and information available to help you make the best decisions for your patients and practice. They are ready for tech, are you?

These are just a few ways you can prepare your practice for Millennial success. If you are interested in learning more, email enquiries@healthbridge.co.za.

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