Industry Voices: 3 ways to improve your practice in a millennial-driven world

Telemedicine doctor
Millennials are changing the way practices must operate. (shironosov/Getty)

After operating stagnantly for many years, the healthcare industry is undergoing a monumental shift toward more convenient and consumer-focused care.

This shift, in part, is fueled by policy changes such as value-based care models, but more so the industry is adapting to the growing millennial patient population. Particularly as the baby boomers continue to age, healthcare organizations must evolve.

According to a survey by EBRI Research, compared to older generations, millennials are more apt to seek out alternative healthcare models and make research-driven shopping decisions when it comes to their care. The shift to convenience has been a long time coming, and much of the healthcare industry is still late to the game.

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I noticed this shift eight years ago while working in an emergency room when I realized most of what we were doing could be done more efficiently and conveniently, with a driving focus on patient satisfaction. That realization inspired me to open a group of urgent care clinics.

Of course, the inherent nature of on-demand care clinics caters to the wants and needs of millennials, but even traditional healthcare providers can begin to adopt some of the practices pioneered in the urgent care space to appeal to the millennial generation and maintain the competitive edge necessary to compete in a constantly evolving market. Here are three strategies practices can use:

1. Capitalize on patient engagement technologies

Across all industries, millennials now expect service that is convenient and respectful of their time. No longer is it acceptable to arrive to an appointment 15 minutes early and still be left sitting in the waiting room and exam room for indefinite amounts of time. By leveraging sophisticated patient engagement solutions, healthcare providers will be in a better position to set and meet expectations and eliminate the elements of uncertainty that patients find most daunting when it comes to the traditional healthcare experience.
Brian Bearie
Brian Bearie, M.D.
(Yucaipa Urgent Care)
Engaging patients from the start, there are tools that offer constant wait-time visibility, online self-scheduling for optimal convenience and real-time text alerts on their visit status. These alerts help to eliminate time wasted waiting in the physician’s office. If patients are in the waiting room, you can use these types of tools to display a digital queue to give patients full transparency into the waiting process and keep them informed. Continuing engagement long after a visit, these technologies enable providers to proactively schedule and distribute follow-ups and referrals. This additional engagement can significantly increase repeat visits from new and existing patients.

2. Implement a specialty-specific electronic health records (EHR) platform

The EHR technology a healthcare provider uses can either lend great value or be a significant disadvantage to the overall operation of a practice. In the urgent care space, we have improved every part of the business significantly by using a purpose-built system, designed to serve the unique needs of our specific industry. It is important to implement customizable and tailored solutions for optimal and constant efficiency.

Implementing technology such as EHR and practice management solutions that have an easy-to-use interface and can be customized to the providers’ needs will help physicians use the technology in the most efficient manner possible. This also helps streamline physician workflows for less time spent on the computer and more attention put back onto the patient. Leveraging tailored technology and thoroughly training physicians to use the solution will better ensure patients are checked in and out efficiently, eliminating administrative redundancies and provider frustration.

3. Nurture your online-presence to attract millennial patients

The recent EBRI Research report (PDF) confirms millennials are very likely to factor in online ratings and reviews before choosing and visiting a healthcare provider. Millennials do their due diligence in vetting their options online, and they’ll choose one provider over another based on a strong online presence.

According to a BrightLocal survey, consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business, and 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. As millennials assign increasing value to online ratings and reviews, it is important to monitor these and calibrate practices in real time to improve customer service.

For better reputation management online, use patient engagement technologies to automatically distribute follow-up messages inviting patients to provide feedback and rate their experience. If a patient reviews their experience negatively, it can be flagged for immediate follow-up to avoid a negative online review and help retain his or her future business.

The constant and timely visibility these technologies provide into patient feedback allows providers to remedy poor patient experiences quickly and prevent any negative impact to online presence.

Increasingly, as the industry continues to shift and millennials take charge of their healthcare, convenient and patient-centric care is evolving from a “nice-to-have” to a primary need for organizations that want to maintain and grow their patient base. It is crucial for traditional providers to be thinking more about realistic offerings or practices that will give them a leg up among competitors.

In no uncertain terms, this will be the new standard in healthcare, and as the baby boomers are phased out and millennials come to the forefront, the faster these changes are made the better.

Brian Bearie, M.D., is the president/medical director and founder of Yucaipa Urgent Care Center in Yucaipa, California. The center does not require patients to make an appointment and is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

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