Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and Generation Zers (born 1997 to 2012) represent 7 percent of patients in the practice of James Legan, MD, and they also tend to come in for an appointment only once every couple of years. However, this hasn’t deterred the Montana-based internist from devising a strategy to attract and retain these individuals that he hopes will, over time, comprise more of his patient base.
In January, he started using secure texting so patients could ask for prescription refills and request copies of reports, lab results, and office visit summaries. Texting doesn’t require any additional work on his part. His nurse signs patients up for text messages after she takes vital signs, and responds to the messages as they come in.
Legan says patients of all ages—and especially younger generations—tend to prefer texting over phone and email communication. He has seen this in his own practice as well as in his personal life with his 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, both of whom are in Generation Z. “Their phone is their connection to the outside world,” he says. “I hate to say it, but I think email is old technology now. We need to make communication more immediate.”
Nearly 70 percent of Legan’s patients actively use the patient portal that’s tied to his EHR, though he anticipates texting will eventually replace it entirely. He’s also exploring providing secure video chatting to address common medical problems such as a rash or sinus infection. He predicts younger generations will increasingly demand this type of technology as part of their healthcare experience.
According to Accenture’s 2019 digital health consumer survey, convenience is a major factor for younger generations when choosing a provider. For example, 84 percent said they want easy access to test results, and 80 percent want the ability to request prescription refills electronically. This is in addition to the majority of respondents who demand short wait times, responsive providers, and cost-conscious care.