Providers keen to attract millennial patients should make sure to impress them the first time around or risk losing them to another provider, according to a recent study.
Millennials are paying close attention to office appearance, cost, customer service and the quality of products used during a visit, according to a recent survey conducted by the Health Industry Distributors Association. The insights on millennials follow a wider survey HIDA released last year on the impact medical products have on patient satisfaction.
HIDA members distribute and manufacture medical products, including to companies such as Medline Industries, Cardinal Health and Owens & Minor. The organization's survey included 319 millennials, the largest response of any age group in the survey of 1,009 people.
Providers are watching the millennial generation, which is known in the industry for opting for the convenience and immediacy of retail and urgent care, rather than the traditional appointment-based primary-care relationship. There are nearly 80 million millennials in the U.S., and they spend roughly $600 billion each year, according to consulting firm Accenture.
The survey puts a lot of emphasis on millennial's initial impressions of providers. HIDA found that millennials are more than twice as likely to research providers on websites such as Yelp, Consumer Reports and Angie's List, and 32% of millennials said they've switched providers when they were dissatisfied, a rate that is 12 percentage points higher than that of other generations.
A millennial's dissatisfaction can come from a variety of factors, though cost was highlighted as a major issue. Sixty percent of millennials said cost influenced their evaluation of a provider, and millennials cited it as a significant reason for why they'd leave a provider. Forty-one percent of millennials said they have postponed seeking healthcare because it was too expensive, and 21% said they have a high-deductible health plan, a number that is just under the national average and may be skewed lower by younger millennials unaware of what their parents' plans offer.
Millennials are also big fans of alternative, retail-style care sites, with 43% of millennials reporting they've used an urgent-care site in the past year, and 23% saying they've used a retail health clinic in that time frame. Not surprisingly, millennials were less likely to have seen a primary-care physician in the past year.
“Millennials are looking for convenience and customer service, and they're not necessarily looking for a long-term, in-depth relationship. It's a pretty big paradigm shift,” said Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, CEO of the Medical Group Management Association.
Millennials appear to be particularly concerned about provider wait times: 33% said they waited too long to receive care, and 38% said a provider failed to meet their expectations because they were unable to get lab results during the visit. Those kind of results are possible with newer medical products and are more often available at urgent-care facilities.
The jury is out as to whether millennial's demands on the medical business are good or bad for the industry and millennials' health, but providers should be taking notice if they intend to compete with quickly growing retail-style competitors, Fischer-Wright said. “I think the mistake is holding to our conventional practice behavior and expecting patients to shift back as opposed to moving forward with our consumers,” she said.
But millennials may not understand the higher costs that come with urgent-care facilities due to their longer hours and advanced services such as imaging and on-site diagnostics. During her time as chief medical officer of St. Anthony North Hospital in Westminster, Colo., Fischer-Wright said she received a lot of complaints from patients who used urgent-care centers and didn't realize they'd face higher copays or out-of-pocket costs.
Urgent-care centers provide competitive pricing and are generally transparent about what patients will pay, said Steve Sellars, CEO of Premier Health, a Baton Rouge, La.-based chain of 41 urgent-care centers. And operators understand that, in a retail-style environment, they have to deliver more amenities to the millennial generation, beyond quality care, in order to justify a premium service.
“You expect that the doctor is clinically competent,” Sellars said. “A lot of people are looking for a little something extra: great service, friendly service, follow-up calls and a patient portal to pay their bill online and access their records.”
That being said, Sellars said staff at his centers make it very clear to patients that urgent-care facilities should not take the place of a relationship with a primary-care physician. A number of primary-care offices have urgent-care services, and all of Premier's facilities are aligned with health systems and physicians through joint ventures.
Providers might be surprised to learn that millennials take particular notice when equipment such as exam tables or products such as gowns are low-quality or outdated. Twenty-seven percent of millennials reported that a provider failed to meet their expectations based on the quality of products used during the exam and 24% commented on the age of products.