As healthcare organizations talk and fret about the dramatic changes to their business model driven by a shift from volume reimbursement to value-based payments, they must be asking themselves how their health system, hospital, group practice or ancillary service businesses must change their style and process of communications to appeal to, and connect with, the Millennial generation?

communicating with millennialsHere is why I believe this is an important issue.

The Millennials, also know as Generation Y, were born between the early 1980s and the year 2000.  They communicate differently, make no mistake about that. If their lives are not mobile all the time, it is close.  They grew up with technology. Being connected 24/7 and very tech savvy is in their DNA, along with a very different set of values about how and why things should work, and their role in the big picture.

This generation will not be content to wait around for traditional communications to wind their way through a convoluted system before action occurs.  They think it, they immediately communicate it — probably with text versus email — and they want a timely, if immediate response.

If you feel you have a cutting edge digital strategy because you have a Facebook page and Twitter feed, I would urge you to rethink that position.

Millennials demand more from the healthcare system they support. It does not matter if it is a small rural hospital or a large metropolitan health system, executives must develop and implement a comprehensive digital strategy that will force structural change.

Traditional methods of scheduling an appointment to see a healthcare provider will not work.  Millennial will not be happy with a decision tree-based telephone answering system with endless options and a voice recognition system that is only marginally effective.  They want access, preferably via a mobile device, and it better be designed for ease of use and speed.  Oh, by the way, if your provider offices are not efficient — meaning on schedule without excessive wait times at various staging points  — the Millennials will vote with their feet and find a competing healthcare provider that gets it.

Which brings me to another contentious point: physician connectivity.  Most healthcare providers are still in the dark ages on this issue, or at least that is how many Millennials see it.  No, they do not expect a physician to be sitting around waiting for their questions, but they do expect a communication system — either using text messaging or FaceTime — that is immediate, meaning within the hour during normal business operations.  While there are many health systems using provider email features in programs like MyChart, the response time varies widely from next day to next week or weeks, based on the provider.  That won’t work for this upcoming generation.

What does all this mean for today?  It means that while healthcare providers of all sizes and stripes are trying to survive the reform transition and pay the bills, they better be thinking strategically about a future dominated by Millennials and what types of technology and communications tools will be necessary to earn their loyalty.  Population health management is, if nothing else, a retail oriented approach to delivering and receiving payment versus the inefficient wholesale model we currently use.  If you cannot earn and retain customer loyalty for your organization’s portfolio of healthcare services in the population health model, you cannot win.

Technology and digital communications will be the critical tools to attracting the Millennials and retaining their loyalty.