Designing healthcare in the age of millennials, Baby Boomers

November 26, 2016

It’s not easy being a doctor in such a transitional period of American healthcare. Practices are pressured with consumer-driven demands from a wider patient-demographic than ever before.

Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Jake DiBattista, a territory manager at SimpleVisit, a video service provider for physicians. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Medical Economics or UBM Medica.

 

Jake DiBattistaIt’s not easy being a doctor in such a transitional period of American healthcare. Practices are pressured with consumer-driven demands from a wider patient-demographic than ever before.

While the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964) often get the limelight as they take center stage in the demand for healthcare services, millennials (those born between 1985-2000) continue to drive the future landscape of healthcare. Understanding the unique needs of both segments is crucial as providers attempt to execute lasting business plans.

The millennials

Expectations among millennial consumers begins and ends with the increasingly essential smartphone. A powerful tool in the pocket of over 85% of millennials, the smartphone is too important to be ignored. When designing healthcare for millennials, it is key that physicians keep in mind solutions that engage users through the device that is at the center of their universe.

 

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Mobile applications are at the core of a user’s smartphone experience. Research shows 69% of college users currently monitor their sugar intake and 66% of users monitor caloric intake using such applications. Healthcare providers would do well to utilize mobile applications as an extension of their care plan. Mobile applications are often free or low cost to download, which makes it convenient for both patients and providers to test and implement these accessible tools as a means of care.

In a world of likes and favorites, it is easy to see just how important social engagement and approval has become in the age of millennials. It is now easier than ever to connect individuals with communities across the world, and healthcare is not immune to this phenomenon.

Millennials are flocking to anonymous online chatrooms, such as healthfulchat.org, to bond and discuss the diseases and conditions affecting them among like-minded peers. Guiding millennials to these online communities can be another powerful tool for providers.

When offering care to millennials, providers should keep in mind the role peers can play in influencing lifestyle choices. Eighty two percent of millennials tend to favor word of mouth from friends, family and social media when they're deciding what to buy, so if providers can focus on the social communities online that influence millennials the most, they can net a much larger impact when trying to implement lifestyle changes.

 

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A guiding trend in the next generation of healthcare is its unique integration with the workplace. There is nothing new to employers who pay for healthcare. What is new, however, is employers being a provider for healthcare. Large corporations are embracing the cost savings of offering healthcare in-house with 60% of the nation’s large employers now offering medical coverage for telemedicine, as of 2016.

Understanding the role of workplace care for everyday checkups and ailments, patient preferences will be increasingly important as physicians carry the load for reducing costs and maintaining their patient population’s health. By intervening and providing care that millennials can access without missing work, providers can assure that they are delivering care to patients who cannot afford to miss a day at the office.

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Regardless of generation, there is an abundance of information and services now available to patients. More than 70,000 websites disseminate health information. In excess of 50 million people seek health information online, creating a healthcare environment that is plagued by those who have a perceived doctorate from WebMD.

When designing treatment and care plans in the modern age of care, whether your patients are old or young, it is important to carefully explain and be open to questions they may have from their searches across the vast sea of health websites and blog posts.

The Baby Boomers

While communication through the smartphone is redefining how providers care for millennials, Baby Boomers continue to demand a high amount of traditional feedback and guidance. Proper communication has been so lost in the recent shift to digital medicine that among all patient demands, a doctor that actually listens ranks the highest in patient satisfaction.

This demand is amplified when it comes to Baby Boomers who will often have multiple providers and conditions compared to their millennial counterpart. Allowing Baby Boomers to use tools such as video visit technology, will give them more time and improved access to ask questions and express their concerns with providers. By increasing channels of communication and provider access, you can help improve treatment compliance and patient satisfaction.

 

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While millennial care is characterized by large online social communities, the Baby Boomers most often find support from those in their family. Figuring out new ways to engage and involve the family can help Boomers to improve their health and better understand their care plans.

Providing patients with a caretaker that works online with the family in real time is a new approach that is shifting the landscape of care, so that family members are more informed and involved with day-to-day care. As a provider, making small steps, such as emailing visit notes to family members, can go a long way in improving the quality of care one receives after they leave the office.

Trying to loop in and engage the families can be made easier through the use of video technology, which allows multiple parties to connect with the provider from across geographic locations.

Moving care to the home is perhaps the biggest challenge in developing care that works for the Boomer population. As longevity of life continues to expand and this population continues to age, we can expect to see an increasing demand in the spectrum of elderly care, with a smaller and smaller pool of the population working to to pay for it.

Due to this increase in demand and limits on payment and supply, we must shift how we think about care of the Boomers to be more at home and lifestyle focused. For home-based care, many of the principles listed before will help to ease in this transition, such as improved and new channels of communication or leaning on the family more heavily to support care.

Developing care plans that work inside the home are critical in order to control the increasing patient flow and will lead to a reduction in the cost of care, while improving patient satisfaction.

 

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In conclusion, whether you are designing care for the patients of the future or just trying to figure out how to manage an aging population, the same core principles apply. Good communication and relying on the support of others can go a long way.

So the next time you see a patient, think about what their population's unique needs are and how you can adapt to make sure they are happy and taken care of, be it engaging through the smartphone or communicating the visit to the patient's family and caretakers.