Talkin' bout my generation: How healthcare marketers can reach all types of consumers

There's little doubt that consumerism is on the rise in healthcare thanks to a variety of seismic changes sweeping the industry. But providers that want to capitalize on this trend must also realize that not all healthcare consumers are alike, according to a new white paper from marketing firm Smith & Jones.

For all types of healthcare consumers, the availability of online information on care quality, the existence of alternatives to hospital-based care and patients' increased financial burden means that providers must strive to not only provide quality care, but cater to their patients' individual needs, the white paper states. And these consumers' needs and habits vary according to the generation to which they belong.

For example, consumers who belong to the Greatest Generation--those older than 65--often rely heavily on their providers for health information and referrals, according to the white paper. While they make up only 12 percent of the population, organizations can't overlook them, as they account for 35 percent of hospital stays. Providers can reach this generation by marketing to and with referring physicians, and delivering messages within mass media and the office environment.

Baby boomers (ages 45-65), who are expected to challenge the healthcare industry as they age, also may respond to physician referral initiatives, but they are more likely than their parents to research their options, the white paper states. Therefore, providers should consider integrated online and offline messaging, as research shows baby boomers tend to seek health information online based on what they see on TV.

Generation X, on the other hand, comprises the "first generation of true healthcare consumers," according to the white paper, as these 30-45-year-olds have an affinity for healthcare brands and shop for care much like they would shop for anything else. Effective marketing strategies for these consumers should drive messages to the web, and employ hospital positioning, brand messages and positive patient experiences.

Finally, 20-30-year-old millennials present a whole new set of challenges for healthcare marketers. As they aren't yet heavy healthcare users, they are most responsive to targeted messages delivered when "they are close to the care decision," the white paper states, and they also show a preference for creative and mobile-based advertising. As millennials are likely to switch providers if they have a bad experience, it's also incumbent on healthcare marketers to pay attention to review sites and social networks.

To learn more:
- access the white paper