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Millennials and zoomers vs. boomers: How different generations seek out and choose healthcare providers

 

Digital channels are increasingly monopolizing the journey to care. In fact, patients today rely on digital resources 2.2x more than provider referrals when choosing a healthcare provider. From researching doctors to scheduling—and even conducting—appointments, much of the healthcare experience is happening online.

Press Ganey recently surveyed more than 1,000 healthcare consumers to understand how they find and select care providers. The study examines how patients of all ages find doctors, weigh their options, decide on a healthcare provider, make and conduct appointments, and evaluate the overall experience.

While all generations are going digital, drilling down into the data reveals critical insights specific to the behaviors and preferences of different age groups. These results are both eye-opening and can help healthcare organizations align consumer-facing efforts with the populations they serve.

Digital transformation has reached boomers

When it comes to aligning company CX strategies with generational trends, recognizing that boomers are now digitally empowered is crucial. While digital adoption is historically driven by younger generations, boomers and seniors are closing the digital divide in how they find, choose, and interact with doctors.

When asked if they’ve used the internet to search for a healthcare provider in the past year, 100% of boomers answered “yes,” while 81.4% of millennials and Gen Z said the same. And the kinds of resources used have also diversified. Although Google is often the starting point, consumers end up on online content hubs, directories, and other sites in their search for care. Reliance on platforms like Healthgrades and Vitals has spiked since 2019—up 38% among boomers and 48.7% for millennials and Gen Z as they seek trustworthy data to inform their decision-making. 

When searching for a care specialist online, the top four sites boomers use are Google (73.8%), hospital websites (44.8%), WebMD (35.7%), and Healthgrades (23.8%). Millennials and Gen Z mirror this preference, opting for Google, hospital sites, Facebook, and Healthgrades, with WebMD just behind in fifth.

Today, a lot of search happens on mobile devices—which are always on hand, whenever and wherever a patient starts looking for care. 43.8% of boomers prefer to use a smartphone or tablet when researching healthcare providers (a 9.2% jump since 2019). 60.2% of millennials and Gen Z prefer to research healthcare providers on a smartphone or tablet (up 7% from 2019). To make a great impression out of the gate, a mobile-friendly experience is a must.

Millennials and zoomers prioritize convenience—and cost

Millennials and zoomers demand a painless and streamlined end-to-end experience. These digital natives have been conditioned to seek the path of least resistance. At the same time, functions like one-click checkout and online scheduling convert more leads into paying customers.

While quality of customer service is the #1 driver of loyalty across the board, younger patients are more likely to cite cost (52.8%) and convenient billing and payment options (44.1%) than boomers (38.7% and 32.3%, respectively) as important factors in this category.

Convenience also fuels search. Voice search, for example, is entering the mainstream, driven by the younger populations—i.e., early adopters who view it as an expected and familiar technology, not a new gimmick. 35% of millennials and Gen Z use voice search capabilities to find healthcare providers (vs. 30% in 2019). A mobile-friendly experience is a must: ~25% of millennial and Gen Z respondents use mobile applications to arrange medical visits, eclipsing boomers by 18 percentage points.

Younger generations also favor simplified appointment scheduling. Nearly 73% of millennials and Gen Z prefer to book digitally vs. over the phone while nearly 40% of boomers say the same. Organizations need to build out their digital and online interfaces while maintaining consistent phone support to cast the widest net to bring in new patients.

Ratings and reviews wield a ton of power, especially with boomers

Online reviews are a mainstay of the patient journey. For millennials and zoomers, ratings and reviews of a particular specialist are the most important factor while researching care providers. But boomers also highly value ratings and reviews; they’re a close second behind doctor referrals.

That said, boomers are the most active online healthcare reviewers: 57.1% have left a review for a provider or hospital, compared to 44.8% of millennials and Gen Z. And ratings and reviews carry a lot of weight with boomers, who are harder to please: 46% of boomers say 4 (out of 5) is the lowest-acceptable star rating (29% of millennials and Gen Z say the same).

Patients largely agree that reviews reflect reality. Since reviews generally trend positive, encouraging, collecting, and publishing a steady stream of feedback only helps organizations balance out (and bury) the rare less-than-glowing comment. Plus, patient reviews offer a treasure trove of insights. Healthcare organizations must actively monitor their ratings and reviews to understand patient sentiment and identify any areas for improvement. Healthcare-specific natural language processing and AI can help do that for you.

Telehealth is more than “having a moment” 

The pandemic has both reinforced digital behaviors and altered the experience of care itself. In the early days, the unknown dangers of the virus drove many people to seek out and use telemedicine, often for the very first time.

Digital convenience not only drives trust and loyalty pre- and post-visit, but patients are increasingly looking for care that meets them where they are. Since 2019—and largely driven by the pandemic—use of telemedicine surged 2,840% among baby boomers and 210.7% for younger generations. On top of that, 10.6% of boomers and 21.5% of millennials and Gen Z would be discouraged from booking an appointment if the provider didn’t offer telehealth.

Though a sharp uptick in telehealth use was initially driven by necessity during the pandemic, it remains a popular option for patients, even after in-person care resumed. Just as people opt for curbside pickup over walking into a store, virtual appointments are easier, more convenient, and save time. People are busy, and they want to most efficiently maximize every hour in the day.

With the healthcare landscape changing rapidly, leaders need to spearhead consumer experience efforts more than ever before. Understanding how different generations seek and select healthcare providers is critical to meeting their needs—and ensuring you don’t lose patients to the competition.

To learn more about how Press Ganey can help you engage consumers of all ages, reach out to an expert here.

 

About the author

As Press Ganey’s Consumerism Director, Andy partners with our hospitals and health system clients to stay on the cutting edge of consumer-driven trends, demands, and technology. He's worked in the reputation management space since its inception, and his deep expertise in the field has allowed him to closely collaborate with and drive vital consumerism strategies for some of the biggest names in the industry.

Profile Photo of Andy Kennedy