For over a generation, doctors have created marketing campaigns targeted at specific age groups. Starting in the 1950s, excited to see the Great Depression in the rearview mirror, innovative marketing efforts really took off. Content directed specifically at children, teens, young adults, and retirees started popping up all over the United States.
Ads warned mothers that ignoring the need for glasses could lead to poor school performance. Young men were targeted with ads on the importance of regular doctor visits to keep their strength and vigor. Dentures were a big pitch for retirees. Over time, this approach was very fruitful, paving the way for the heavily demographic-based marketing of today.
Today, the healthcare industry is facing a new question when it comes to generational targeting. Are demographics important not just in attracting patients, but in keeping them as well? What impact does age have on patient loyalty, satisfaction, and retention? Does age play a role in which patients are the most (and least) likely to be loyal to their healthcare practice? Are there differences in the types of services that create satisfaction and happiness across generations? How do patient expectations differ?
In order to gain a more in-depth understanding of these issues, Solutionreach commissioned The Patient-Provider Relationship Study, which examines this dynamic across generational preferences.
The average office will see patients ranging in age from 0 to 100! With such a wide spread of ages, it’s easy to see why keeping patients happy is such a challenge. On a single day, it may be common to serve people from all of the different generations, each with their own needs and wants. Such incredible differences would put any practice to the test. Our recent study found this to be true.
A staggering one in three patients say they are at least somewhat likely to switch practices in the next couple of years¹. Could your practice handle losing 33 percent of your revenue? If you’re like most practices and could not, this article is for you.
In this post, we’ll discuss:
- Three generations of healthcare patients
- The age groups most likely to switch practices
- How to create satisfied and loyal patients across the generations
A glimpse into three generations
Before we can dive into the particulars of the different generations, it is important to have a basic understanding of each group.
- Baby Boomers. Baby boomers are classified as those born between the end of World War II (around 1945) and the late 1960s. The first wave of baby boomers recently turned 70. More and more will hit retirement in coming years. Until 2015, when millennials passed them up, baby boomers were the largest demographic in the United States. When it comes to healthcare, they appreciate open communication with their doctor but are also likely to do research of their own. While boomers tend to be a little bit “old school” when it comes to healthcare, they are also willing to adopt new and better solutions if they are available.
- Generation X. Typically born between the late 1960s and around 1980, Gen Xers are often considered to be independent, flexible, and family-oriented. When it comes to their healthcare, Gen Xers have confidence in their providers but are also very actively seeking out additional research and information on their own.They typically relate more to millennials than they do to baby boomers.
- Millennials. Members of this generation were born between 1981 and 2000. They’re often referred to as “digital natives” for their tech-savvy natures. In 2015, the millennials became the largest generation of all time, with nearly 80 million living in the United States alone². Most have lived with technology and the internet for virtually all of their lives and are accustomed to the “instant response” culture. They like to use technology as part of their healthcare experience, and they value efficiency and convenience.
Which age group is the most likely to change providers and why?
Millennials are the undisputed winner of the “Most Likely to Switch Practices” award. A scary 46 percent of Millennials say they will probably move on in the next couple of years¹. In fact, millennials are nearly three times as likely to switch providers when compared to baby boomers. With millennials taking up the largest percentage of the population, losing that many patients would be a huge hit to any practice.
If millennials take home the award for “Most Likely to Switch,” it is Gen X that would be the runner-up. More than one in three—35%—of Gen Xers say that they will probably change practices in the next few years. This is not surprising, considering Gen Xers are much more like millennials than baby boomers.
Why do they leave? There is good news here. Many practices have a tendency to think that everyone who moves on to a new practice does so because the patient moves or changes insurance. Not so fast! More than half of patients switch for a reason other than insurance change or a move. Why is this good news? It means there are things you can do today to help minimize these losses.
It’s time to hop on the digital train
The truth is that today’s medical patient is a modern, busy, tech savvy individual. They are continually hooked up to technology—through phones, tablets, and computers. They use their phones to order takeout, tickets, and transportation. Needless to say, they want to be able to use this technology when it comes to their health as well.
Unfortunately, many practices are failing in this regard. In fact, Solutionreach’s new study found that the area where patients are LEAST happy with their healthcare experience is the practice logistics. What does that mean exactly?
Practice logistics are the things that make life easy for patients - things like making appointments, receiving timely appointment reminders, ongoing communications, and so on. Really the nuts and bolts of your operation—the way your operation runs. Here is where technology can be a true game-changer. By offering tech options, you can not only reduce the workload of your staff, but you can significantly increase the satisfaction levels of your patients.
What is the quickest, most effective way to join tech world? Texting. The texting craze includes multiple ways to connect:
- Text your patients—94% of millennials and 87% of Gen Xers would like it if your office sent out texts. The interesting thing is that boomers are getting on board as well. Sixty-six percent of baby boomers say they would like it if you texted them. This is especially true when it comes to appointment reminders and scheduling, although texting follow up after an appointment is also something patients would appreciate¹.
- Let your patients text you—This is a statistic that comes as a surprise to many offices. The vast majority—87% of millennials and 79% of Gen Xers—say that they want to be able to text their doctor. Once again, boomers are also keen on texting—with 58 percent saying they’d like to text their healthcare practices. Interestingly, they do not only want to text confirmation of appointments (although this is a popular feature), but they would also like to text you questions about health problems they have been having as well as billing questions¹. Fortunately, there are technologies available today that can allow you to do just that.
Times are changing. It has become increasingly important to focus on the satisfaction of millennials and Gen Xers, while still keeping boomers (currently the largest healthcare consumers) happy. Today’s patient lives with technology at their fingertips. They are used to always being connected. Taking advantage of this emerging way of life is a simple, but incredibly effective, way to keep patients satisfied.
The critical pieces of information uncovered by the Hero Study doesn’t end here. Get more of the latest research in the guide to The Patient-Provider Relationship Study.
 The Patient-Provider Relationship Study
 U.S. Census Bureau, Total US Population by Age and Generation as of Dec 2015