How Should a Doctor Engage a Millennial? Throw Tradition Out.

In my last blog post I mentioned that my previous beliefs about healthcare contradicted my Generation Y traits, and I didn’t even realize it. I also wondered whether other Millennials were in the same boat of interrupting their lives by being unengaged patients.

In my opinion, Generation Yers are concerned with being healthy. The “life interruption” comes into play when we have to go to the doctor. We spend time being engaged with our health by ourselves and with our friends, but not with our doctors. For example:

  • My friends and I participate in a kickball league, have “family style” dinners, and often run or walk together a few times a week.
  • The members of my MBA class get together to play paintball, kickball, and volleyball.
  • My recently engaged friends play tennis every week.
  • Almost everyone I know carries a water bottle with them all day.

We do all of this to stay healthy and look good. And yet, we rarely think about involving our doctor in the “stay healthy” aspect. Why are we not engaged patients when being healthy is so important to us?

Well, it seems the answer is because of the two disconnects between generational characteristics and healthcare.

The first disconnect is that Millennials want things now. Waiting in a doctor’s office for hours is beyond unappealing when I could probably just Google the answer to my question. After all, we are “masters of the Internet” so it is natural for us to just go online instead of to the doctor.

Many Millennials don’t understand why they can’t just go online, view their records or make appointments, or even speak to their doctor. It’s almost strange to us that it has taken healthcare so long to go digital. Since it’s inconvenient sometimes to go to the doctor, we often avoid it and just go to the Internet.

The second disconnect is that Millennials don’t want the traditional patient-physician relationship. We are team-oriented and need feedback. We want to know everything about an illness or treatment before we proceed with a decision. Until the physicians are willing or able to change the traditional relationship and open up a deeper conversation, I doubt many Millennials will go to the doctor.

So how do you encourage a Millennial to be engaged with their health, and with their physician? You have to try to bridge the gap between generational preferences and good health.

Most Millennials do not realize they waste valuable time refusing to visit their doctor. Being an unengaged patient is the opposite of most of our generational traits. Recognizing this, physicians and healthcare organizations need to understand two things to engage a Millennial: Go digital and change the physician-patient relationship.

Go Digital

Technology means a great deal to us. I traveled through Europe with a few friends from my MBA class before meeting up with the rest of the class in the Czech Republic to study International Business. After days without Wi-Fi, we finally stayed at a hotel in Germany where it was free.

Want to know how excited we were? Let’s just say there was dancing involved. Physicians and health organizations should meet us in our digital territory. We’re a tech-savvy generation, the “net” generation. Help us become engaged by adopting some of our traits: make things faster, easier, and connected.

Change the Physician-Patient Relationship

Millennials cannot be treated or engaged the same way as previous generations. Baby Boomers are used to more hierarchical structures: the doctor tells you what to do and you do it, often with no questions asked. Millennials like to know where they stand and need to have conversations with their doctors. The physician should try to direct the Millennials to greater engagement and healthier lifestyles, not try to control us or tell us to just do it.

If healthcare organizations understand that many current healthcare practices don’t mesh with the Millennial way of thinking, they will open the doors to a new generation and their future patient base. We have different lifestyles and beliefs than previous generations, and physicians must try to adjust. Yes, we have to be willing to become engaged patients and to interrupt our lives, but healthcare providers must begin to make the effort to reach us and communicate with us in ways that we are accustomed to.

Mallory Savoie

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One Response to How Should a Doctor Engage a Millennial? Throw Tradition Out.

  1. Jgervin November 13, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    This Millennial could not agree more, which is why we are building the answer to all this. Great article!