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Filling the generation gap: managing differences in patient healthcare expectations At Broad Acres Health and Rehabilitation Center in Wellsboro, PA, long gone is the notion of “visiting hours.” There, 24-hour visitation is now the norm. This 4imprint customer also offers frequent tours for families considering the Center as a temporary or longer-term home for a parent or loved one. Its goal is to show that Broad Acres can give the care needed to live a better and more fulfilling life.Broad Acres’ methods of operation showcase an increasingly important facet of today’s changing healthcare scene: The need to shift patterns of thought and communication to reflect generational differences. Many children of visitors to Broad Acres Rehabilitation Center are Baby Boomers, and they want accurate information and appraisal of how their loved ones will be living outside their care. That’s where 24/7 visiting hours and in-depth tours come in.

Taking Broad Acres’ lead, we offer you a few other examples of how to best communicate with the four main generations in play: Seniors, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.

Seniors – Ages 65+

  • According to a recent study by Gordian Health Solutions, seniors enjoy surfing the Web, but are often concerned that information found may not be accurate. Mitigate their concerns during in-office visits by asking what they’ve already heard about an ailment, and confirm or set the record straight if need be. Then, be sure to leave them with plenty of take-home resources, sealed with your approval of accuracy, such as hardcopy brochures, packets or hand-outs. Consider pairing the materials with your organization’s contact information, printed onto useful, everyday items that are easy to read, like magnets, calculators or computer monitor calendars.
  • Senior adults value being respected, yet also may cringe at the descriptor “old.” Likewise, they often feel put-off if healthcare professionals don’t value their time or assume their schedules are empty. Make sure they feel like a priceless part of your team by referring to them as Mr. or Mrs. _____, being cognizant of their daily activities and involvement, and consistently ensuring them of the value of services they’re receiving.

Baby Boomers – Ages 45-64

  • According to The Journal of Practical Hygiene, many Boomers are comfortable with technology and expect to receive the most cutting-edge services from their healthcare provider. Use your e-newsletter to profile tech-savvy elements of your organization.  Be sure to include topics like upcoming seminars to new equipment. Let them and other customers sign up online. Drive them there by printing the registration page’s web address on reception-area giveaways like secure-ink pens or sanitizers.
  • The same Gordian Health Solutions study found that Boomers may be cautious of nurses and physicians in terms of privacy. Consider making your privacy policies even more accessible by posting them in exam rooms and offer to provide them with a take-home copy following each visit. This will help communicate to Boomers that you understand the importance of keeping health information in secure hands.

Generations X & Y – Ages 19-44

  • Often times “on-the-go,” these two generations usually prefer to have access to their information in virtual or mobile form. They enjoy interactivity in other facets of life, and expect their healthcare to be no different. Keep the lines of communication open at all times, and always play to their curiosity and desire for feedback by engaging in meaningful conversation and remembering personal details. Also consider updating them via e-mail or text message whenever (legally) possible –they’ll appreciate your adaptive nature!
  • Generation X in particular tends to be wary of the future and is more tight-pocketed in terms of spending. By outlining various treatment options and pricing (if possible) and providing a mini cost-benefit analysis during consultations, you can help them simplify health-related spending decisions.
  • Web use is consistently growing among Gen X- and Y-ers, so be sure to maintain your web presence with constant updates and interesting information. You may want to consider diving into the world of blogging, podcasting or online social media as well – these are three great ways to reach consumers with your healthcare messages!

By adapting your communication style to each generation, you will likely make an even better impression with your patients. Showing them you understand their needs and wanting to help them make the most out of their healthcare experience, your organization will be well on its way to maintaining and growing your practice!

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