Millennials are becoming increasingly important for physician practices seeking to maintain or grow their market share.
Millennials are playing a leading role in the transformation of the practice of medicine.
"Over the past 10 years, there's been a move out of the hospital. There has been a shift away from having a big physician office at the hospital to having offices in the suburbs to make healthcare convenient. That's what the millennials require," says Louis Levitt, MD, vice president of The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Bethesda, Maryland.
The baby boomer generation's predilection for primary care and hospitals is not shared by millennials, he says.
"Millennials tend to go to a clinic system—either acute care clinics or chronic care clinics—to treat acute processes before they will consider going to an orthopedist or other specialist for care," he says.
"They are very cost conscious, and clinics are less expensive for them than going to an expensive physician office," Levitt says.
For specialists, millennials have upended the traditional approach to generating referrals, Levitt says. Under the traditional approach, specialists build a reputation for excellence that, in turn, draws physician referral sources such as primary care practices.
He says millennials require more direct engagement.
"We have to go out and meet millennials in their work and play environments. They are not going to come into an office based on a relationship, and most millennials don't have primary care physicians," Levitt says.
Levitt is retooling his practice, Orthopaedic Medicine and Surgery Care Center in Washington, D.C., to cater to millennials. The practice has taken four approaches.
1. Online presence
Making a practice accessible online is essential to attract millennial patients, Levitt says.
"We make online booking a top feature in the office. Millennials don't have any patience—certainly not for hanging on a telephone line for 10 or 15 minutes waiting for someone to make an appointment. So, we have to have easy access for them to get into the office," he says.
In addition, online tools ease administrative burdens on millennials, he says. "We also use tech to allow patients to fill out forms in advance of showing up at the office."
Social media is also one of the keys to engaging millennials.
"There is a huge shift to relying on social media as a form of advertising—going right to the sites where millennials seek information and enticing them to come to your practice. You let them know they can been seen quickly," Levitt says.
2. Convenient location
To help provide easy access for millennials, Levitt's practice has opened its first satellite office in 35 years of operation.
"I have spent a great deal of time and energy avoiding doubling up on expenses and personnel with two offices. I always believed that if patients wanted to see me, they would come to my office," he says.
The new office was targeted specifically at millennials.
"This year, we opened our first ancillary office in an area around Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., that is a growing gentrification area for the city. It's the site where all the millennials are focused. So, we felt we had to open an office there to be convenient for millennials," Levitt says.
3. Patient experience
Millennials insist on good service, Levitt says.
"If millennials spend more than 30 minutes waiting for you in the office, they will believe they had a bad healthcare experience no matter how good the healthcare delivery was during the visit," he says.
To rise to the customer service challenge, Levitt's practice has focused on the efficient use of patient time.
"We have gone to great lengths to cut down on the wait times and any other difficulties getting into the office. We are aware that we are no longer going to be judged on healthcare alone. Patients are judging based on the entire patient experience," he says.
4. Embracing change
To appeal to millennials, established physician practices must be open to new ideas and new approaches to providing care, Levitt says.
"I can't hang on to my old ways. So, when my junior partners come to me looking for help managing their email and text messaging with patients, I can't deny that we need this kind of help just because we didn't have the need before," he says.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.