1. Volland, Jennifer DHA, BSN, RN, CPHQ, NEA-BC, FACHE

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Millennials have now surpassed the baby boomers as the largest generational cohort by a half million individuals.1 While often known as the "me" or selfie generation-if one takes to Facebook or Twitter, all generations are posting photos of themselves and loved ones. Although, social media interaction is not limited to the generation born between 1982 and 2004.2 This cohort is smart, they like structure, and they are challenging many traditional forms of education, employment, and services.


Millennials do have some unique attributes when it comes to health care. They will educate themselves about illness and wellness and search for the best care options. They will be informed consumers and carefully determine where they are willing to spend their dollars. As organizations continually look at ways to strengthen consumer retention and the bottom line, being aware of this generation, their nuances, and what they will-and won't-do, becomes even more important when talking about a sizable proportion of the population who are also having children who are moving into the health care system.


As would be expected, Millennials selecting a physician will engage in online research. They look at physician ratings, seek out comments made on social media, and select a provider based on reputation.3 A high proportion of Millennial parents use Web searches for identifying hospitals (73%) and check rankings online (72%).4 However, part of that equation involves Millennials asking their parents whom they talk with daily, for advice. This generation tend to live at home with their parents into their 20s and 30s. The communication that is happening within the family unit and among the broader community, an organization's ability to effectively engage in service recovery, the online ratings of their providers, and the reputation of those working within their system become critically important.


Millennials want a relationship-with the organizational brand, the facility, and the provider. This group wants to feel fully connected within their health care experience. They actively want to be part of the decision-making team. As staff, they don't want PowerPoint presentations, meetings, or anything that isn't in motion. Moreover, this population will look for places that can design a patient experience tailored not only to themselves but also to their children. When seeking serious treatment for a child, 49.97% will go outside a 100-mile radius for better value and services.5 Once vested in the organization, they stay. But until then, they may go elsewhere. The service area that hospitals find themselves competing against with this generation can be a broader landscape than in the past.


What are some things that organizations can do to help attract this cohort of individuals?


* Find ways to invite their participation and encourage dialogue. Obtaining information from only the traditional CMS mandated post-hospital survey (HCAHPS) is a delayed source of feedback from the care encounter. Millennials have been raised in an environment where the information flow happens much more quickly than in the past, and organizations must be able to respond similarly as part of their strategy for building loyalty with this cohort. This involves the proactive leveraging of technology and outreach where Millennials feel heard quickly after their experience, responded to timely, and in a partnership with the organization.


* Understand their needs-then provide the means to meet them. Millennials are focused on living healthy lifestyles. This extends to their children as well. After-hours within the hospital setting, what's available for food options for families beyond the vending-machine, highly processed foods? What snacks are available in the pediatric setting for patients that are nutritional?


* Know your social presence. While all generations are clearly active on social media, this cohort does its diligence within the social media environment when seeking care. What traffic are you getting to and through your Web site? What lasting impressions are your providers leaving even before people seek care by what's posted online? How easy is it for them to navigate your patient portal?


* Leverage technology to interact expediently for services and feedback. Examples include using text (SMS) alert messages for medical appointments, e-mail and text outreach for postvisit care surveys, voice recognition follow-up calls to reach 100% of the population during care transitions with immediate alerts provided back to the organization, and robust analytics to understand the unique needs of these populations.



This is the generation that will test limits-of technology, of how things were done in the past. The question is whether your organization has been idly standing by, which equates to a technology hibernation mode, or whether you're ready to advance with them and understand the ways this generation is reshaping the future of health care.


We are already behind in our efforts. Yet, we cannot delay, as the next cohort of employees and consumers is more device and technology driven. Generation Z-people born between 1995 and 2010 (born digital or digital native), has arrived on college campuses.6 This group will need to learn the value of personal relationships in health care. Many may need to learn that only using devices and technology can be harmful.7




1. Pew Research Center. Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as America's Largest Generation. 2016. Accessed December 1, 2017. [Context Link]


2. Strauss W, Howe N. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. 1991. Accessed December 1, 2017. [Context Link]


3. McCarthy K. What Millennials expect from their healthcare provider. 2017. Accessed December 1, 2017. [Context Link]


4. Greene J. Millennials' online shopping habits are changing healthcare marketing. Crain's Detroit Business. 2015. [Context Link]


5. NRC Health Market Insights Data. October/November 2016. [Context Link]


6. Gose B. A new generation of digital distraction. The Chronicle of Higher Education. September 17, 2017. [Context Link]


7. Turkle S. Reclaiming the Conversation. The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York, NY: Penguin Books; 2015. [Context Link]