Use technology, wellness programs and a hands-on approach to engage millennial patients

Smartphone millennials
Millennials are tech-savvy and connected, but my require more detailed instructions from doctors.

Tech-savvy millennials view healthcare through a different lens than previous generations, so providers that want to better reach this population must adapt to their expectations and worldview.

For starters, millennials' expectations of the healthcare system go beyond medical treatment. They put a high value on a work-life balance and an emphasis on wellness, according to an article from Hospitals & Health Networks. They expect an interactive, responsive way to communicate with their doctors, and may require more follow-up and specific guidance.

“Millennials expect an Amazon experience, and we need to move to more modern ways of engaging with them," Kelly Faley, vice president of digital marketing for Sharp HealthCare, told the publication.

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One solution is for providers to beef up their digital offerings. Marketing firm C Space Health conducted a survey of more than 1,300 millennials and found that they’re more likely than previous generations to self-diagnose in nonemergency situations through the internet, and that they’re also the group most likely to seek out peer reviews before going to the doctor. Millennials are also more likely to embrace fitness apps and other tech that allows them to share health information.

Faley said providers that are falling behind on mobile technology should focus there. The ideal health apps would incorporate their wide view of what healthcare is, which includes wellness, and would embrace, not patronize, the generation’s aversion to the healthcare system, according to C Space Health. Apps should encourage their self-reliance but also make it easy to connect them with providers when they need.

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However, though many millennials embrace digital technology, about a quarter of the survey participants said they view unplugging from the digital world as a key part of health. So striking the right digital balance is crucial, the survey found.

Connecting with millennials will also require providers to listen to what they want and need. Claudia Covello, executive director of University Health Services at the University of California Berkeley, told H&HN that health organizations should survey millennials to nail down what they're looking for. Providers are often creatures of habit, so polling millennial patients can open doors for improvements that better connect with them, Covello said.

The students at UHS particularly embraced an integrative care model that UHS launched, Covello said. They value convenience, and it offers them access to multiple types of providers at once. Sharp has addressed this desire for convenience by offering more weekend, evening and early morning hours for same-day appointments, and Sutter Health’s walk-in clinics have been a hit with the millennial set. The clinics open seven-days a week, according to the article, and offer amenities like free snacks, charging stations and wi-fi that are targeted toward young adults.