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The Millennial patient: New data highlights key differences between millennial and baby boomer healthcare consumers

Millennials overtook Baby Boomers this year as the largest living generation; and while Baby Boomers may currently consume most healthcare resources, the move to value-based care and increased focus on prevention is driving healthcare providers to better understand and reach Millennial patients. As part of its ongoing research on the changing practice of the Art of Medicine, Nuance Communications released new data on generational patient behaviors and the SlideShare presentation, “How Millennials shop for healthcare.” From its global survey of 3,000 people, this latest data highlights how providers will need to shift to simultaneously support Millennials and Baby Boomer patients, who have different expectations and preferences for the delivery of care.

“As patients play a much greater role in determining how, when, and where they receive care, organizations that don’t stay closely connected to their patients won’t be able to survive,” said Trace Devanny, President of the Healthcare Division, Nuance. “Providers need to better understand the populations they serve and the threats to their business to remain competitive in their market and best manage their patients’ needs.”

Key finding #1: Millennials share referrals and negative healthcare experiences

Staying true to their social nature, 70 percent of young Millennials (aged 18-24) choose a primary care physician based on recommendations from family and friends, compared to only 41 percent of patients over the age of 65. The survey also revealed that while the majority (51 percent) of patients 65 and older tell their doctors directly if they are unsatisfied with their care, 60 percent of younger patients tell their friends, instead.

This poses a new challenge for providers, who may not hear directly from younger patients when they’re unhappy with their care. Not only do Millennials share negative feedback with friends and family, but those contacts are more likely to trust the feedback and make their own decisions based on what they’ve heard from their personal network.

“From what I have observed, people are more likely to provide a review if they have had a poor experience rather than a good experience.” said Dr. Jeffrey Wolff-Gee, CMIO of Swedish Health Services. “If you are able to adjust for this using a validated methodology, you can then incorporate a better statistical sampling and see scores that are more reflective of the experiences of your full patient population. Feedback is extremely important in healthcare and, at Swedish, we are working with all of our providers to make sure they have full access to what their patients are saying online.”

Key finding #2: Millennials turn to the web for healthcare information

Millennials were much more likely compared to other age groups to turn to online sources related to healthcare references. More than 54 percent of young Millennials said they search online for health information before seeing a physician and rely on doctor ratings; whereas the global average for all patient ages is 39 percent.

“When I needed to find a new physician, I looked for a doctor within my insurance network and then turned to online reviews,” said Kay Zimmermann, a 25-year old patient. “Based on the comments, I ruled out several doctors, including one I was originally considering because someone mentioned they felt rushed and treated like a paycheck during their appointment.”

For the vast majority of Millennials, it’s commonplace to use the Internet and their social networks to read reviews on products, movies, restaurants – and using the web to shop for providers is a natural extension. Like consumer brands, which have had to adjust to using social networks and interacting with consumers through new channels, providers will need to become more focused on what’s being said about them online, and will need to place a higher priority on online scorecards.

“We know a huge number of patients today are looking up symptoms and health information online, so it’s just a matter of time until they shop for physicians and communicate grievances that way, too,” said Tony Oliva, MD, national medical director, Nuance Communications. “These are informed healthcare consumers who, if they feel rushed, are likely to share criticism online. Healthcare organizations need to find ways to help physicians optimize time spent with their patients and to protect their reputations.”

The Art of Medicine

This new data on the shifting expectations of patients is part of Nuance’s Art of Medicine initiative which highlights the critical importance of helping physicians spend more time with patients in ways that improve care while navigating the changing dynamics of healthcare. To learn more about the diverse needs of Boomers and Millennials, visit Nuance’s Art of Medicine web page to view the SlideShare presentation, “How Millennials shop for healthcare,” download “Healthcare from the Patient Perspective eGuide, and read contributed posts, including “Will there be a Rotten Tomatoes for Healthcare?” and “The 3 Secrets to a Better Patient Experience for People Like Me,” which share insights on what the survey findings mean for providers.