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How to market to millennials


It’s no surprise that the digital native generation has different communication and interaction preferences. Here are five ways primary care practices can engage millennial patients.

Millennials have a completely different set of expectations than prior generations when it comes to engaging with the world around them. They are the digital natives and, as such, are used to interacting with their social networks, accessing services, and having the world’s knowledge all at their fingertips.

Healthcare spending represents 17.9 percent of America’s gross domestic product, but the healthcare industry is still in its digital infancy. Unlike most service industries, healthcare providers are still working with 1990s technology: the phone and the fax machine. While many practices have attractive websites, they haven’t invested in the same convenience tools as other industries.

Think about it: Millennials are used to booking flights, hotel rooms, hair appointments, and ordering takeout at any time of day or night from the convenience of their smartphones. But when it comes to making a doctor’s appointment, patients typically have to make a phone call during business hours and wait on hold for prolonged periods of time. Millennials expect good experiences when interacting with any service provider. A reasonably functioning website is not enough to create that experience. Primary care practices have to offer millennials access and convenience, too.

How millennials access healthcare

Generation Y trusts their social (and social media) networks far more than traditional advertising. They go to the internet first to research their symptoms, then call their doctor (or not). Millennials do not rely on physicians for medical advice as much as previous generations and prefer to do their own online research before booking an appointment. According to a survey conducted by Communispace:

  • 56 percent of millennials reported they  visited a primary care physician in the last year, compared to 74 percent of non-millennials.
  • Approximately half of millennials research symptoms and treatments online before consulting a doctor, and of those, 27 percent will self-treat at home rather than consult or visit a physician’s office.

They not only consult the internet for healthcare advice, they’re also vocal about the care they receive. Sixty percent of young millennials will share their experiences when they are dissatisfied with their friends rather than with their doctors, so it is critical for physicians to solicit feedback from them directly. Giving them an opportunity to express their opinions verbally in the office can help prevent negative reviews online.

Millennials don’t just use the internet to google symptoms and self-treat. They use it to find the best doctors, and the best doctors for them personally. A survey conducted by Nuance Communications found that 54 percent of millennial responders use online reviews to find a doctor before scheduling an appointment. What’s more, they are twice as likely than non-millennials to trust personal and social network reviews when it comes to selecting healthcare providers.

What millennials care about

Millennials expect that healthcare providers will understand their needs and support their preferences in much the same way as other service brands. Canned advice will not resonate the way that more personalized information addressing lifestyle, health, and happiness does.

For example, Northwestern Medicine engages its patient community through several key strategies:

  • It hosts an user friendly website where information is quickly found through the use of icons and labels for popular content rather than presenting the viewer with lots of text to scan. The health system also actively solicits feedback to constantly improve the site.
  • It offers viewers a quick and easy way to sign up for a "healthy tips" newsletter that ties together the health aspects that millennials particularly care about, such as nutrition, mental health, and wellness.
  • It features videos with a personal touch: physicians talking about themselves, their practices, and the care they provide alongside patient testimonials. Northwestern encourages sharing of these videos on social media networks.
  • It houses an extensive library of medical advice, articles, and content making it a go-to consumer destination for good sources of medical information.

Of course, most primary care practices do not have the extensive marketing budget of Northwestern Medicine, but most can readily incorporate Northwestern’s marketing strategies to approach millennials.


5 initial steps to build your millennial marketing strategy

  • Make sure your website performs in ways that will support a high-quality experience.
  • Become a go-to resource for health information. You can tap into readily available sources of information by interlinking trusted sources into your website, and/or you feature content from your own providers, such as blog posts or reviewed articles.
  • Use existing technology to its fullest potential. Start with your EHR vendor. Are there patient engagement tools available that you aren’t using such as text message reminders for upcoming appointments? Ability for patients to self-schedule? A portal for patients can access their medical records and securely communicate with the practice at any time? Technology doesn’t have to be expensive, and you may already have access to many digital tools you didn’t know about.
  • Engage millennials in their care. Setting aside enough time to develop relationships during initial visits can be an essential component of establishing a positive experience.
  • Actively solicit feedback from patients by asking them about opporunities for improvement, what services they would like to see from your practice, and if they would like to review your practice online, which can help you attract more millennials. This feedback can also help you to improve your marketing strategies over time to attract millennials and patients in other age brackets. These strategies will provide an ongoing source of information to continue improving and refining marketing strategies, and it may improve your ratings with payers, too.
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