Think Like A Millennial: Marketing To Young Patients Featured

I will never forget the time I ran into one of my doctors at Whole Foods. This time a year ago, actually. I was perusing through overpriced wine and cheese when I turned a corner and there she was. I had seen her face to face in her office three times at that point, and I knew I liked her right away, given our shared love of dogs and exercising. 

I greeted her with a big smile and asked about a recent half marathon she had run. She stared at me wide-eyed for a few seconds too long before responding. I knew immediately. Oh no, she doesn’t recognize me. I quickly wrapped up the awkward conversation and left, a little embarrassed and with a lot more wine than I had anticipated on purchasing that day.

Here’s the thing. With a full-time job and a million other things going on, I’d consider taking the “walk it off” approach instead of going to the doctor even if I was near death. All jokes aside, it’s expensive, time consuming, and often times inconvenient. It doesn’t help when your doctor doesn’t recognize you outside of the office.

I was born in 1991, which means I’m part of the nation’s largest living generation – the millennials, and there are almost 84 million of us. We’re the digital natives, the instant gratification generation, the professional multi-taskers (It takes talent to walk and text without running into a wall). We have the answer to everything at our fingertips, thanks to our smart phones. We use social media on a daily basis to connect with the world around us. In fact, we prefer to connect with others that way, it’s what we do. More than anything else, we crave relationships and community. We want to feel known. There’s no better feeling than walking into a Starbucks and hearing the barista say, “Your usual, today?”

 All of that being said, there’s huge potential for healthcare providers to attract more millennials to becoming long-term patients instead of taking the alternative route to urgent-care centers, or avoiding care altogether. The key? Think like us. Here are a few quick facts you should know as a provider: 

We have a lot of power, but not quite as much money. As a generation, we have a lot of purchasing power. But as individuals, it’s often a very different story. Many millennials come into adulthood with massive amounts of debt from credit cards and student loans, so the chances of us paying off a surgery or expensive doctor’s visit right away is slim to none – hence the second statistic in the infographic. It’s important to offer financing options that allow patients to get the care they need without dinging their credit or without need of a down payment. By offering a flexible medical payment plan, patients can choose when to pay, giving them more control and freedom over their bills. That kind of flexibility is something we’re unable to obtain anywhere else, which is a huge differentiator for providers. And it’s a double win for you, since you’re bringing more money into your practice instead of writing off bad debt. 

We have trust issues when it comes to businesses and social media. Honestly, it’s hard to believe in a company that doesn’t have an online presence, and the same goes for healthcare providers. More than two-thirds of millennials are active on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. It’s a great way for us to get a sense of who you are as a company – your strengths, your weaknesses, and your passions. There are so many benefits to embracing social media as a provider. First of all, you’re giving patients the chance to contact you in more ways than being put on hold and passed around several office admins before we get an answer. Timely responses to our questions means that you’re trying to meet us halfway, and that means a lot. Here’s a helpful tip when creating social media content: be genuine and don’t overdo it. If you’re creating content simply to have something to post, we will identify your practice as one to ignore instead of wanting to learn more about it. Quality over quantity is key!

We pay for everything online, our medical bills should be no different. I pay for clothes, student loans, and even for my dog’s food online. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to pay for our medical bills online, either. Offering an online payment portal makes it much easier to pay our bills from anywhere – especially from our phones – instead of calling into the office to pay over the phone or mailing a check. We choose how much we want to pay and when, while you receive patient payments faster and create stronger patient-provider relationships with us.

Don't forget the 2 C's. Convenience and customer service are what we’re looking for the most when it comes to care. Too often I’ve sat in a waiting room significantly longer than the actual appointment itself, or had to sit in a waiting room long after my appointment’s scheduled time. Once I had a physician’s assistant heatedly chastise me over the phone for not scheduling a yearly physical earlier than I did. Needless to say, it’s pretty simple: treat us the way you want to be treated. 

Traditional means of attracting and attaining new patients are not enough anymore, and you can’t expect young patients to come to you. Provide technological solutions, flexible financial solutions and engage with us online. We’ll see you as something greater than a healthcare provider – we’ll see you as a business we can rely on. 

Jenna Tropea

A social media and marketing junkie, Jenna Tropea covers a range of topics from healthcare technology to policy and regulations. Jenna received her MBA from Clemson University and enjoys discovering and sharing the latest news in health IT breakthroughs.