How to Connect With the Next Generation of Patients

Times are changing, and it is time for healthcare practices to get with the times. Traditionally, everything healthcare-related was in-person and manual, often resulting in less-than-efficient care. While this may have been sufficient for older generations, the next generation of patients has higher expectations regarding their healthcare. 

In fact, by the end of 2021, millennials will surpass the baby boomer generation by 1 million. As the primary generation of patients, it is crucial that healthcare providers learn to connect with the younger generation in order to maintain and grow their clientele. 


Focus on the Patient Experience


One of the best ways to connect with the next generation of patients is by recentering your focus as a provider. In the past, patients were viewed as nothing more than patients - someone to treat. Today, patients expect a bit more out of their providers and want to be treated as a person rather than just a patient. This trend is vastly picking up speed in the healthcare industry, commonly referred to as healthcare consumerism

Healthcare consumerism is the recognition of the role that patients play in the healthcare system. The growing popularity of this trend signifies the shift to value-based care in the healthcare industry, finally bringing the focus back onto the patient experience. This concept encourages providers to cultivate a positive experience for patients, one in which they feel listened to and cared for by their physicians. 

The rise of this trend came during just the right time, as millennials, in particular, are searching for stronger provider relationships. A study shows that "93% of millennials want a provider relationship, but 85% feel that providers only care about them when they are sick." Consequently, the next generation of patients feels as though their providers don’t care about them beyond checking off a patient on their to-do list. 

While providers may not see an issue with this, they will when their patient numbers begin to diminish in years to come. Nine out of ten millennial respondents claim they would be more loyal to a provider who supports their total well-being than one who does not. This means that if providers do not soon adopt a patient-facing attitude, they may be putting their practice at risk. 

Still, focusing on the patient experience is only the first step to connecting with the next generation of patients. In order to genuinely connect with millennials and later generations, healthcare practices must view patients from a holistic perspective and embrace the future of medicine. 


Bring Mental Health Back Into the Conversation


Until recently, mental health and wellness were commonly overlooked aspects of healthcare. Fortunately, patients and providers have come to recognize the importance of a patient’s mental wellness and its effect on the rest of their health. This realization is particularly pertinent to millennials and younger generations who place great importance on the state of their mental health. 

In fact, 90% of millennials want support for their emotional and mental health, in addition to support for sleep and positive family relationships. All of the external factors in a patient’s life can drastically impact their mental and physical health. That being said, as a provider, it is your responsibility to consider all of these factors when treating your patients. 

This holistic perspective on medicine is not only beneficial to connecting with millennials but can also be applied to patients of any age - or condition. Particularly for patients with chronic conditions, stress and anxiety have a significant impact on one’s health. As chronic conditions often impair a patient physically, they can cause overwhelming feelings of panic and stress. If unchecked, these feelings can impair a patient’s ability to recover or manage their health. 

Consequently, it is critical to consider all factors when treating patients - both internally and externally to ensure they receive the best possible care. Identifying mental health issues in a patient and listening to their concerns is essential to providing them well-rounded care and showing that you value them as not only a patient but a person. Opening up the mental health conversation in your practice will significantly help you connect with the next generation while improving patient care. 


Go Digital


While the next generation of patients places great importance on provider relationships and mental health awareness, digital flexibility is perhaps what they are most drawn to in a modern provider. Thanks to recent developments in technology, telehealth is a booming trend, allowing patients and providers to interact entirely remotely. No longer are patients required to report to in-person doctor’s appointments, spending hours commuting and waiting just for a 15-minute conversation. 

With telehealth solutions, patients and providers can meet virtually, whether through instant messaging or video conferencing. In addition to this, patients can easily and quickly access their medical records or necessary resources from any location, drastically increasing the accessibility of healthcare. Even better, patients can receive a diagnosis or prescription from the convenience of their phone - making receiving care more efficient than ever. 

Due to the pandemic, patients have realized that digital healthcare is not only possible but their preferred method of healthcare delivery. With this realization, patients do not want to give up the accessibility and convenience that telehealth provides them. 

Such capabilities are particularly important for the next generation of patients as 88% of patients under the age of 40 stated that they would choose their next provider based upon their online presence. As this will soon be the primary target of patients for providers, it is crucial that they listen to patient preferences and make the switch to digital healthcare. 


The Next Generation Knows What They Want - Listen!


The next generation of patients recognizes their value as a consumer in the healthcare industry. That being said, they are not going to settle for the healthcare customs of the past. Today, millennials want to build a strong relationship with a provider that cares for them as an individual. 80% of millennials feel that if their providers knew more about their health interests and goals, they would be able to serve them better. As a result, the next generation will prioritize a provider with a focus on patient experience over one that they may be loyal to. 

Providers can demonstrate this sense of focus on the patient experience by listening to what their patients want. Today, patients want a holistic healthcare experience, where they feel valued as a person. Not only does this include being listened to regarding their physical health, but also their mental health and external factors that could impact it. 

Finally, patients have seen that accessible and convenient healthcare is possible, and it is now expected of healthcare providers. By adopting telehealth solutions, providers can care for their patients in an efficient manner. Through telehealth, patient time is valued, ensuring that they receive the high-quality care they need in an efficient manner. 

As a result, patients have access to regular and consistent care without putting their life on hold to obtain it. In recognizing the importance of such factors, providers can significantly improve and personalize their patient care, preparing their practice for the next generation of patients.


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About the author - Andrei Blaj

Co-founder of Medicai, serial technology entrepreneur. Andrei has over 15 years of experience in healthcare & technology. He graduated in Computer Science with a specialization in Computer Vision & AI and started his first company in 2007 while still a student.
Andrei worked with and founded several healthcare technology startups. His expertise is at the intersection between deep technology and healthcare.