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Josh Weiner is chief operating officer of Solutionreach.
It isn’t just millennials who are switching doctors. Loyal, long-term baby boomer patients are looking for a better experience elsewhere.
New research suggests that just because patients like their provider doesn’t mean they will stay with the practice. And it isn’t just millennials who are switching. Loyal, long-term baby boomer patients are looking for a better experience elsewhere.
When patients were asked if they were considering leaving their provider in the next two years, about one in three said they were, according to Solutionreach’s Patient Provider Relationship Study. When broken out by generation, millennials were the most likely to be thinking about switching, but even 20 percent of baby boomers said they were considering switching primary care providers.
Baby boomers are the second-largest generation after millennials, but they are the largest consumers of healthcare services. For many practices, boomers still make up a substantial portion of their patient panel.
What do practices need to do to help ensure boomers stay loyal? It might be surprising to hear that much of what practices need to do to retain boomers is the same as what they need to do to retain younger generations.
There has long been a myth that baby boomers are slow to adopt technology and don’t use the internet, smartphones, or social media. Our study found this isn’t true. And that study is supported by other surveys.
Practices need to make some basic changes in the way they connect with and engage boomer patients to retain them successfully.
Offer communication options.
Don’t assume all baby boomers want a phone call. Many now would prefer to receive an email or text. Seventy-four percent of patients age 50 to 64 have a smartphone, and nearly 90 percent use the internet, according to Pew Research Center. With the right technology you can set their preference for text, email, or phone as well as how often they want to receive reminders and other communications. These messages can be automated, reducing phone calls for staff while decreasing no-shows.
Enhance digital access.
All patients will appreciate the ability to schedule online, pay bills electronically, receive timely and relevant educational materials, and engage through social media. Much of this can be automated, improving customer experience without adding work for staff.
Customize and personalize.
Again, ask patients about preferences for reminders and other communications. But also consider customizing communications based on factors like age, diagnosis, etc. Relevant, timely communications are more likely to be read.
Make more face time for patients.
Over 50 percent of patients say they have the same expectation of customer service from healthcare providers as non-healthcare businesses, reports consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
At first blush it may seem like automation removes that personal touch patients want. The reality is that it can help create more personal connections with regular, customized communications and by freeing staff to spend more time with patients in the office. By automating reminders, recare, and education, staff spend less time on the phone. Adding solutions like online scheduling and bill pay streamlines even more staff tasks.
Going one step further and implementing tools like texting makes communication faster and easier. In the end, the right technology gives staff much more face time with patients so they feel a more personal connection.
Understanding what boomers want is the first step in improving their experience and building loyalty. It’s more than patient engagement. It’s about implementing tools patients want that simplify processes and save time for everyone.