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How Millennials Choose Their Doctors


Does your medical practice have a web presence? Are your patients talking about your practice on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms? If you answered "no", you might be missing out on reaching a sizeable patient population.

Millennial on smartphone

Are you online? Does your medical practice have a web presence? Are your patients talking about your practice, your staff, and you—in positive terms, of course—on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms?

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, you might be missing out on reaching a sizeable patient population.

According to recent studies, millennials—those individuals who reached young adulthood around the year 2000—rely heavily on social media when it comes to making healthcare decisions.

For example, a 3,000-person survey from Nuance found that 70% of patients aged 18 to 24 choose a primary care physician based on recommendations from family and friends.

And how do they get those recommendations?

“Millennials have a strong, almost compulsive need to share information,” says Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing. “Social [media] networks help them do that.”

The Social Generation

Fishman points out that millennials are the first generation that grew up in a digital world. They are their own press agents, and they can be yours as well. The key is taking advantage of their communication compulsion and leverage word of mouth marketing. And it starts with creating a website that’s clean, easy to navigate and interactive.

“Millennials have really strong rules about what they expect from a website,” Fishman explains. “They want good visuals and very little copy. Too many contacts are lost by poor, unappealing websites. Millennials think, if they don’t know how to create a good website, how can they possibly understand me?”

But reaching millennials goes beyond having an attractive, functional website. Fishman explains that this population is concerned about their health. They research doctors in chat rooms, on blogs, and through their friends. And then they make a decision.

“In their lifetime, millennials will send out at least 20,000 tweets,” says Fishman, noting that this patient group will post their thoughts, feelings, and experiences not only day to day, sometimes at the moment. They might post: “I’m waiting in the doctor’s office.” “I’ve been here 45 minutes.” “They spend no time with me, and don’t seem to care.”

Those tweets, good and bad, are being read by all of their friends and family. And one tweet by a millennial patient, Fishman says, reaches at least 10 others.

Walk in Their Shoes

Fishman says that millennials, as a social generation, want to interact with everyone. They’ve grown up with the Internet, and are continually responding to everything from corporate questions to presidential surveys. Their everyday lives are characterized by instant messaging, tweets and texts, and posts on Facebook. And they have very short attention spans.

“So when you hand out that long, fill-in sheet in the office, and the doctor doesn’t bother to look at it or acknowledge it to the patient, it’s a waste of their time and the doctor’s time,” Fishman says. “Just have them fill out what you absolutely, positively need to know.”

Fishman also explains that millennials expect physicians to understand their lives. For example, women—thanks in part to Title 9 legislation—are much stronger today. Their role models are stronger and savvier. And they’re much more health and fitness conscious.

“I would recommend to a clinic of doctors to sponsor a young women’s baseball or softball team,” she says. “That way they will know your brand. And when they need a doctor, they will think about the group that supported them.”

That’s much more important than marketing, Fishman adds.

“Millennials don’t trust marketing. They are going to trust the relationship they have with their friends more than the relationships you have with the marketing company. But the relationship they have with their doctor is important. Take that extra minute or two and realize that this generation does expect to be asked their opinion.”

Power in Numbers

Do you want to impact your practice’s bottom line in a positive way? Fishman points out that there are almost 80 million millennials.

“They are an enormous group of people,” she says. “That’s a huge pool to draw from.”

But to do so, it’s essential to understand their world, and how they like to communicate.

“Understand the influence of their friends, and their reliance on the Internet,” Fishman says. “You don’t have to like them or be like them or watch their TV shows, but you do have to understand their world.”

And don’t make promises you can’t keep.

“Doctors should say, ‘If you have a problem going on, email me,’ but only if the doctor means it,” Fishman says. “Because if you tell them that and you don’t mean it, they’re going to go to a different doctor.”

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