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Baby Boomers and Millennials Want More Frequent Communication

MHE PublicationMHE November 2019
Volume 29
Issue 11

Millennials and Baby Boomers aren't so different after all. 

silhouette of patients

Years before the oldest baby boomers reached retirement age, the healthcare industry began to prepare for the impact of an aging generation. Healthcare providers and organizations have dedicated time and resources to studying the needs of boomers and adapting to meet them. Now, as approximately 10,000 baby boomers per day turn 65, the healthcare industry faces the challenge of continuing to deliver targeted care to boomers while simultaneously adopting new practices to meet the care expectations of the largest living adult population in the United States: millennials.

An Intrado survey that compared the healthcare expectations of baby boomers and millennials found that both patient demographics desire more and better communication from their healthcare teams. However, boomers and millennials have their own unique needs and communication preferences, so it is important to have patient engagement strategies in place for each of these distinct patient groups. Healthcare teams that do may be able to increase patient satisfaction and elevate the quality of care for both baby boomers and millennials.

Related article: How to Engage Different Generations with Their Healthcare Benefits

According to Intrado’s survey of 1,036 U.S. adults, nearly two in three baby boomers (64%) say they wish healthcare providers would communicate more often between appointments. Given that older Americans typically have greater healthcare needs, this interest in communication isn’t particularly surprising.

What is surprising is the fact that even more millennials than boomers say they want to engage with their doctors between appointments. More than three in four millennials (76%) wish for more frequent communication from healthcare providers between visits-proving that both age groups of patients want their providers’ attention.

Fortunately, giving them that attention may be simpler than it seems.

Tips for communicating with boomers and millennials

Many healthcare teams already have and use patient engagement technology to send patients messages to remind them about upcoming appointments. By leveraging the same technology that is used to send appointment reminders, healthcare providers can deliver personalized text, phone, and email messages that give baby boomers and millennials more of the meaningful between-visit communication they crave. The following examples show a few of the opportunities healthcare teams have to engage boomers and millennials through routine communication:

  • Email baby boomers information about managing chronic disease. Unfortunately, 80% of adults age 65 or older have a chronic condition, and 68% have two or more. Sending patients emails to share valuable disease-specific information is a simple and effective way to support baby boomers with at-home chronic disease management. By the year 2030, an estimated one in four baby boomers will have diabetes, and one in three will be obese. Healthcare teams can offer support by sending a series of emails about nutrition, for example, to boomer patients. Baby boomers suggest this type of communication is welcome. According to Intrado’s survey, more than one in three baby boomers (34%) currently feel that healthcare providers do not effectively communicate recommendations that are specific to their individual needs. So, baby boomers would likely welcome disease-specific communications from their healthcare providers.

  • Text millennials to invite them to schedule preventive exams. Scheduling wellness exams and preventive procedures is not always a priority for younger adults-particularly if they do not have any known health issues. For busy millennials, it is easy to deprioritize preventive healthcare behind family, work, and play. Because many millennials are not aware when they are due for preventive care, it can be helpful for healthcare teams to send them alerts when they are due for preventive screenings or exams. Text alerts work well for this because they are convenient for patients, and because millennials are adept at texting. Intrado’s survey revealed that 94% of millennials want to receive text, voice calls, or email prompts to schedule appointments or take other similar actions.

  • Send baby boomers messages to support medication adherence. Older Americans often have more prescriptions to keep track of than younger adults. Intrado’s survey revealed that 88% of baby boomers feel that to create ideal healthcare experiences, it is important for healthcare teams to send them reminders when their medications are available to be picked up or when prescriptions need to be refilled. Healthcare teams can easily send automated messages that remind patients to pick up prescriptions, clarify dosage instructions, provide instructions on what to do if side effects become troublesome, or request that patients contact them if they are unable to afford their medications.

  • Create a wellness newsletter to send to millennials. According to Intrado’s survey, 97% of millennials say they want healthcare providers to support them in managing their health between office visits. If patients are already healthy-and even if they are not-sharing wellness tips and information is a good way to encourage patients to adopt healthy behaviors or make lifestyle improvements. Sending a quarterly newsletter that covers topics such as smoking cessation and weight management, for example, is an easy way to communicate wellness advice to patients and encourage them to take steps to improve their health.

  • Send baby boomers messages to help clarify financial responsibilities. The cost of healthcare is a concern for patients of every age; however, because many baby boomers live on a low or modest income, they may be particularly wary of high-cost healthcare. Following retirement, boomers sometimes have a lot of questions about transitioning from private health insurance to Medicare. To answer questions and help patients overcome financial barriers, healthcare teams can send baby boomers automated messages to share Medicare resources or highlight healthcare services that patients can receive for little or no out-of-pocket cost.

Despite the multitude of opportunities for healthcare teams to communicate with patients, regular between-visit communication is typically uncommon. As a result, fewer than half of baby boomers (45%) and only 66% of millennials surveyed by Intrado said they believe their healthcare providers want to communicate with them between appointments. Fortunately, healthcare teams can easily demonstrate their commitment to supporting patients-from millennials to baby boomers-by using their patient engagement technology to improve and increase communication.

These examples illustrate a small handful of ways healthcare teams can use tailored automated communications to address the needs of both baby boomers and millennials and offer value between in-person appointments.    

Nate Brogan currently serves as president of Notification Services at Intrado, where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.

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