How millennial parents will reshape healthcare marketing

Amid an increasingly consumer-centered healthcare industry and the emerging influence of millennials on the market, healthcare providers are overhauling their pediatric marketing strategies for millennial parents, according to new research from the marketing firm Marcus Thomas LLC.

The firm surveyed 1,667 parents of at least one child under 18, with millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) comprising 40 percent of respondents, according to materials provided to FierceHealthcare. Among millennial parents, online resources are increasingly more influential in their healthcare choices than doctors, the research found. A full 23 percent of millennial respondents don't ask physicians for referrals, while those who do consult hospital websites and their insurers before following recommendations.

"The biggest shifts [among consumers] are the much greater reliance on their own research in choosing pediatric health," Marcus Thomas Senior Vice President Phil Johnston [pictured right] told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview. "For earlier generations, the physician played a very strong role, especially among Boomers. We found it's a much smaller role among millennial parents."

These shifts have affected messaging from healthcare providers as well, Johnston added. "The key difference there is the orientation of millennials toward the entire family as a unit. Although the patient is a child, millennial parents are very interested in having the healthcare provider focus on the needs of the entire family, including the parents as part of the equation," he said.

There are also key differences between millennials and Generation X parents regarding what constitutes a good patient experience, a major concern among hospitals as patient satisfaction scores play an increasingly important part in reimbursement. Millennials' top priority for a positive patient experience is doctor/nurse responsiveness, according to the research, followed by providers keeping family informed and updated throughout the care process and maintaining child-friendly settings. Despite millennials ranking responsiveness as their top overall preference, Gen Xers show a stronger preference for responsive hospitals overall.

As the population ages, non-pediatric hospitals continue to emphasize the Baby Boomer demographic in their marketing, but pediatric hospitals have largely functioned as a test run for such millennial-focused marketing, according to Johnston. "As millennial parents continue to age," he said, "and as boomers and seniors get out of the healthcare market, the impact that we see on pediatric healthcare decision-making will certainly ripple through the healthcare segment as the millennials make up a greater and greater percentage of the patient base and recipients of healthcare, from adult hospitals and throughout the healthcare system."

Moreover, millennials' own healthcare needs will expand as they get older, Johnston added, and so too will the impact of their specific generational preferences within healthcare delivery and marketing. Indeed, millennial preferences are already driving multiple trends within the healthcare field, FierceHealthcare previously reported, including word-of-mouth marketing, more efficient modes of delivery and a preference for upfront cost estimates.