Millennials, or those aged between 18-34 as of 2015, surpassed the preceding generation, commonly referred to as Generation X, as the largest segment of the U.S. workforce in 2015, according to an article published by Pew Research Center. This year, they have surpassed the baby boomers, or those aged between 51-69 in 2015, as the largest living generation, and are expected to become the largest living generation on record in about 20 years.

Millennials are changing the way America does business across the board. They are tech-savvy, informed, and they want their goods and services now (yesterday, if possible). They want information digitally at their fingertips, and, if they choose your practice, you can bet that the first doorway they will go through is your online portal. Though boomers are the largest patient demographic due their advanced age and relatively large population, it is imperative for the medical profession as a whole to understand how to interact with this new generation. They are the largest generation both in number and in work force, and as they reach adulthood and start families, marketing health care to their specific sensibilities becomes ever more important.

Paging Dr. Google

According to healthcare ad agency Wax, millennials are the “totally online, on-demand” generation and “they’ve probably consulted with “Dr. Google” long before they are ready to reach out to you. So, any millennial marketing strategy has to be a digital strategy.”

Wax has provided a very well-crafted set of questions to ask yourself as a practice manager to ensure that your brand is hitting this important target demographic. In a nutshell, you need to be able to answer these 5 questions satisfactorily. Is your brand relevant to millennials (Does it speak to their youth, their focus on wellness and family)? Is your message authentic (does it ring true, or does it sound like a ‘pitch’)? Are you thinking multiculturally (millennials are one of the most ethnically diverse generations)? Are you using millennial-approved channels (digital channels that are search-engine optimized so they can find them)? And are you living up to your reputation, particularly in the digital arena (good Yelp reviews, google reviews, doctor scores)?

The Doctor-Patient Relationship in the Digital Age

An article written by Tom Furr in Medical Economics suggests that millennials are not as concerned about maintaining a relationship with a specific doctor, and more concerned about the ease and convenience of how healthcare is provided.

“This is the generation that grew up on video games, Google and other elements of the digital age,” he writes, and “They’d rather communicate electronically than face-to-face. Ease and convenience matters to them. And that’s a big reason why we’re seeing the rapid growth in retail clinics.”

Millennials, he states, use retail clinics nearly twice as often as baby boomers, and “seemingly every large … firm has jumped into the urgent care arena, along with the nation’s pharmacy retailers, to embrace the so-called ‘drive-thru’ generation.”

An attractive and informative web presence pays off when millennials need to see a doctor in person as they will be more likely to patronize businesses with stronger online personalities.

But he cautions that many providers are missing one crucial element when it comes to sealing the deal with millennials. Paper is out; e-billing is in. He continues, “Good treatment evaporates with a bill that’s difficult to comprehend and arrives weeks after the time of care…millennials check their phones 43 times a day to deal with things other than Snapchat, Twitter, or Buzzfeed. When a bill arrives on a millennial’s phone, it gets paid, right then and there.”

The First Door They Enter Won’t be Your Office

In an article published in Managed Healthcare Executive, author Judy Packer-Tursman reminds doctors that “when forming marketing initiatives, keep in mind that millennials conduct more research online when selecting hospitals and providers.” Diane Weber, RN, executive director of the American Hospital Association’s Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development, says “Hospitals can help to make it easy for [millennials] to interact online by offering a user-friendly mobile experience and by taking the time to engage with them on a personal level. [Hospitals] might work to strengthen their branding and digital strategy. This includes everything from search engine optimization and value-added content for websites, to having an interactive presence on social media.”

Millennials gravitate toward practices and hospitals that have very current websites and a robust presence on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets. An attractive and informative web presence pays off when millennials need to see a doctor in person as they will be more likely to patronize businesses with stronger online personalities.

Millennials Talk to Each Other

Whether it be online or in person, millennials like to let each other know about how they feel about their healthcare experience. In a striking contrast, however, they are far less likely than boomers to let their physicians know their thoughts regarding their healthcare experience. According to a study conducted by Nuance, a technology consulting firm, “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.

Consumers who Matured in an Information Age

At the end of the day, millennials simply do things differently than the previous generations, not necessarily because of any predilections or generalizations about who, what, and why they are, but because they grew up with computers in their houses and smartphones in their pockets. They comprise the backbone of peer-based review sites, and tend to trust each other more than advertisers or brochures. They know how to get information quickly and accurately, and expect to be treated as knowledgeable and informed customers, and tend to want their physician to talk “with” them rather than “at” them. They gravitate towards practices with a robust web presence, strong peer-reviews, convenient access, and digital billing options.

It is perhaps no easy feat to convert a traditional office to suit the needs of younger patients who are, by and large, healthy and thus demand less from healthcare services. However, as the boomers population inevitably declines and the millennials and gen Xers take their place, it is vital that a modern health care provider adapt to these shifting needs.

For additional reading, take a look at my article on Telemedicine and what it means to the modern consumer.