Communication, Accessibility of Care Are a Priority for Patients

communication is key

Younger patients expect more direct communication with physicians and healthcare organizations. Here’s how providers can rise to the challenge.

A new report from Salesforce Research shows the disconnect between consumers and the healthcare industry. 57 percent of Americans — more than in any other country surveyed — feel that providers are more concerned about their own needs than those of their patients.

Although most Americans (80 percent) trust their personal care providers, only 36 percent trust pharmaceutical companies, and only about half trust insurance companies. Further, the study found that this dissatisfaction is due to a lack of meaningful communication between patients and those in the healthcare industry. According to the survey, Americans feel the medical industry is neither proactive nor personal enough.

So what can HCPs and medical organizations do to more effectively meet patients’ needs? Here’s what a new generation of consumers expects from their providers.

Which Digital Tools Are Patients Interested In?

The Salesforce survey’s generational stratification helps clarify which groups are looking for increased engagement from their HCPs. In the report, each respondent is categorized into one of three generational groups: Silent Generation/Baby Boomer (born before 1965), Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980), and Millennial/Gen Z (born between 1981 and 2000).

The survey’s results show that the healthcare industry may want to alter its strategy to meet the  needs of younger generations. Millennials/Gen Z in particular prefer greater patient communication, especially through the use of digital platforms. Given these results, it’s clear that HCPs and healthcare companies can either take note of the mHealth future, or fall behind.

So what does this change look like? Younger Americans want healthcare companies to communicate with them directly, accessibly, and in real time. Digital channels, such as instant messaging, video chat, and text message, are all significantly more desired by Millennials and Gen Z compared to respondents in the Silents/Baby Boomers category. 

Furthermore, many young people are inclined toward regular — or even daily — health updates. The study found that 83 percent of Millennials/Gen Z want a mobile app for health coaching, compared to just 49 percent for Silents/Boomers and 68 percent for Gen X. The idea of a live health coach, offering daily advice via text message, is also appealing to young people — 79 percent of Millennials/Gen Z are interested, compared to 67 percent and 53 percent of Gen X and Silents/Baby Boomers, respectively. 

Some health innovations are popular among all respondents, regardless of generation. Walk-in clinics that don’t require an appointment have at least 90 percent support among all generations, while in-home healthcare visits have at least 75 percent support, regardless of age. This could indicate that the instant service culture of the digital age has shifted consumer attitudes among all generations. 

A New Horizon for Medical Marketers

With a growing interest in digital health among young Americans — who are generally dissatisfied with traditional patient-provider communication — it’s time for HCPs to embrace mobile technology. Fortunately, according to the Salesforce study, there are some concrete actions physicians and healthcare organizations can take to meet patients where they are.

First, providers should follow up on patients’ progress and outcomes. Those surveyed, especially young patients, indicated a strong desire to maintain regular contact with HCPs. Ensuring that communication is relevant and easy to understand also helps build patient-provider trust, according to the study. 

The Salesforce study underscores the fact that cultural and generational attitudes toward healthcare are changing. Luckily, medical marketers have access to useful data to understand which digital platforms are preferable to certain age groups. For example, Gen X gravitates toward patient portals more than Millennials/Gen Z, while Millennials/Gen Z are partial to text alerts. For medical marketers in the digital arena, understanding these preferences can help optimize customer targeting, leading to greater patient engagement and more appointments booked.

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