First im­pres­sions mat­ter most for mil­len­ni­als

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Adam Ruben­fire

Health­care providers keen to keep their mil­len­nial pa­tients had bet­ter im­press them on that first visit. Mil­len­ni­als pay 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, whose mem­bers dis­trib­ute and man­u­fac­turer med­i­cal prod­ucts. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s sur­vey of 1,009 pa­tients in­cluded 319 mil­len­ni­als, the largest re­sponse of any age group.

Providers are closely watch­ing the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, which un­like pre­vi­ous younger gen­er­a­tions have the op­tion of vis­it­ing ur­gent-care clin­ics, which have sprung up across the coun­try and are lo­cated in many phar­ma­cies. They no longer have to wait for a tra­di­tional ap­point­ment with a pri­mary-care physi­cian, which can some­times mean weeks of wait­ing for an ex­ist­ing pa­tient and even months for a new one.

There are nearly 80 mil­lion mil­len­ni­als in the U.S., and they spend roughly $600 bil­lion each year, ac­cord­ing to con­sult­ing firm Ac­cen­ture. The in­sights on mil­len­ni­als’ health­care de­sires con­tained in the HIDA sur­vey fol­lows a wider sur­vey re­leased last year on the im­pact med­i­cal prod­ucts have on pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion.

The sur­vey em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of first im­pres­sions for mil­len­ni­als. The sur­vey found that mil­len­ni­als are more than twice as likely as older pa­tients to re­search providers on web­sites such as Yelp, Con­sumer Re­ports and Angie’s List. A third of mil­len­ni­als said they have switched

“If it looks re­ally dingy or it isn’t mod­est, or if it’s some­thing that isn’t go­ing to make the pa­tient feel com­fort­able, that’s some­thing they’re go­ing to re­mem­ber.” Katie Calucci, pa­tient gown de­signer at Med­line In­dus­tries. One of her de­signs is shown at left.

providers when dis­sat­is­fied, 12 per­cent­age points higher than that of other gen­er­a­tions.

Mil­len­nial dis­sat­is­fac­tion arises from a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, though cost was high­lighted as a ma­jor is­sue for 60% of mil­len­ni­als. Cost was the top rea­son for mil­len­ni­als switch­ing providers, with 41% say­ing they post­poned seek­ing care be­cause it was too ex­pen­sive. About a fifth of mil­len­ni­als said they have a high­d­e­ductible health plan, a num­ber that is just un­der the na­tional av­er­age.

Mil­len­ni­als are big fans of al­ter­na­tive, re­tail-style care sites, with 43% re­port­ing they’ve used an ur­gent-care cen­ter in the past year, and 23% say­ing they’ve used a re­tail health clinic in that time frame. “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.

The mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion ap­pears to be par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about provider wait times. One-third of mil­len­ni­als 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, some­thing that is now tech­no­log­i­cally fea­si­ble and is more of­ten avail­able at ur­gent-care fa­cil­i­ties.

The jury is out on the health im­pact of mil­len­ni­als’ shift to­ward ur­gent or re­tail care. But providers need to be cog­nizant of the chang­ing shape of de­mand if they in­tend to com­pete with quickly grow­ing re­tail-style com­peti­tors. “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,” Fis­cher-Wright said.

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 at 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 pay higher co-pays or out-of-pocket costs.

Ur­gent-care cen­ters claim they pro­vide com­pet­i­tive pric­ing and are gen­er­ally trans­par­ent about what pa­tients have to pay. Op­er­a­tors un­der­stand that, in a re­tail-style en­vi­ron­ment, they have to de­liver more ameni­ties to mil­len­ni­als be­yond qual­ity care, in order to jus­tify a pre­mium ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to Steve Sel­lars, CEO of Premier Health, a Ba­ton Rouge, La.-based chain of 41 ur­gent-care cen­ters.

“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.”

Sel­lars, who is pres­i­dent of the Ur­gent Care As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, said Premier Health providers ex­plain 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.

Prompt ser­vice isn’t the only is­sue driv­ing mil­len­ni­als away from tra­di­tional providers. The sur­vey in­di­cated mil­len­ni­als take par­tic­u­lar no­tice when equip­ment or prod­ucts such as exam ta­bles or gowns are low-qual­ity or out­dated. About a quar­ter of mil­len­nial re­spon­dents said they were dis­ap­pointed that their provider used a poor qual­ity or out­moded prod­uct dur­ing an exam.

That doesn’t sur­prise Katie Calucci, a pa­tient gown de­signer at North­field, Ill.-based Med­line In­dus­tries, who is a mil­len­nial. Be­cause all hos­pi­tal pa­tients must wear a gown dur­ing their stay, these in­ti­mate gar­ments play an out­sized role in de­ter­min­ing over­all sat­is­fac­tion, she said.

Calucci, now 29, joined Med­line six years ago as one of the com­pany’s first in-house gown de­sign­ers. The com­pany was re­spond­ing to con­cerns about worn-look­ing gar­ments. She helped cre­ate two lines of 100% polyester gowns that feel bet­ter and are more tol­er­ant of hos­pi­tal’s in­dus­trial laun­der­ing pro­cesses.

“If it looks re­ally dingy or it isn’t mod­est, or if it’s some­thing that isn’t go­ing to make the pa­tient feel com­fort­able, that’s some­thing they’re go­ing to re­mem­ber,” Calucci said.

TRAVIS AN­DER­SON

Mil­len­ni­als are big users of re­tail clin­ics, such as this one Kaiser Per­ma­nente op­er­ates in a Tar­get store in San Diego. Kaiser has four clin­ics in San Diego-area Tar­get stores.

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