Healthcare is never a one-size-fits-all industry, and whether you’re addressing the aspects of insurance, doctor accessibility, or a host of other factors, each element in this space will impact individuals in various ways. We recently examined the health behaviors exhibited by millennials and noted that they’re interacting with their physicians in new and exciting ways. Some of them take the approach of simply searching out the most convenient doctor in the area while others take the time to speak with family and friends to gain insightful recommendations.
Yet Americans in that age group often forgo medical treatment in favor of saving money and many do not even have a primary care physician. So, who’s exactly keeping doctor’s appointment books so full for weeks on end? You can thank the baby boomers, a generation that’s made a huge impact upon the world as we know it. Perhaps it’s a deeply ingrained belief that yearly check-ups are essential, or it’s the desire to preserve their health for as long as possible, but whatever the reason, these individuals are making a huge mark on the industry.
Baby boomers are loosely grouped into the category of being born between 1946 and 1964. As they’re approaching older age, they’re utilizing our healthcare providers in a major way. Let’s explore how the 75 million individuals in this group interact with physicians, how they view healthcare trends, and figure out what the industry as a whole can learn from each aspect.
Lack Of Loyalty
After reviewing the data surrounding millennial behavior and seeing that they aren’t necessarily loyal to any one physician, you’d think that baby boomers would be the exact opposite. After all, this is the generation that often stays in the same career for 30 years and in general, has always done things a certain way. However, this view of baby boomers is quickly becoming outdated, as their healthcare behaviors are beginning to closely match those of younger patients each day.
A 2017 study conducted by Solutionreach found a startling fact that has the potential to change the way doctors attract and retain patients—35% of baby boomers in the survey said they have switched their primary care physician within the previous two years. Instead of maintaining the same relationship with one doctor for the span of a lifetime, baby boomers are seeking more. Nearly 20% in the same study group mentioned that they would be open to changing providers if they found someone who better met their needs.
What’s more, boomers spend the most on healthcare above all other generations. These findings are enough to influence the industry to cater to the generation’s desires in a more significant way. More than 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day, and statistics show that retired boomer couples will spend nearly $300,000 on healthcare costs during the rest of their life.
Pinpointing The Issue
Why would so many baby boomers want to change who they see for primary care? It turns out that communication is key in their book, and the ability to feel connected with their doctor is a strong reason for their loyalty. Data collected by Ipsos reveals that baby boomers are mostly pleased with the care they receive, but also notes some strong pain points that cause these individuals to change to another provider. Among the most intriguing statistics uncovered, the group found the following key points to be critical:
- 82% of respondents are pleased that their doctor knows their name and medical history without being prompted or reminded
- Nearly 88% feel that their physician carefully listens to their questions and communicates effectively
- Among the reasons that cause frustration, 32% of respondents noted that waiting times may cause them to choose another provider
- Just more than ¼ of the group felt that they didn’t get enough time with their doctor during an appointment
Not surprisingly, only 17% of baby boomers complained about a lack of pricing transparency, and as this generation is one of the most successful groups to date, it seems that their healthcare decisions aren’t strongly dictated by their pocketbook. When it comes to loyalty, baby boomers truly focus not only on how accurately their doctor can diagnose and treat their ailments, but they also prioritize the personal relationship they have with their provider.
Younger millennials may have grandparents in the baby boomer category, and while some might envision the latter group as technologically incapable, studies have shown that this group is much savvier than you’d imagine. In general, 79% of individuals in the baby boomer generation go online every day or almost every day and are highly skilled in using social media to seek out healthcare recommendations from others.
A Nielsen survey from 2012 noted that 78% of boomers had used the internet to look up healthcare information, and this often happened specifically after seeing something related on television. While this group may not be proactively searching for what their symptoms mean like members of the millennial generation, they’re certainly embracing this tool to enhance their own knowledge. Finally, the data also revealed that baby boomers carefully consider the weight of online doctor reviews before making any healthcare decisions.
That’s not to say that old methods of communicating with their doctors have gone by the wayside, as boomers still haven’t fully adopted many of the digital features that many practices provide. When given the option to receive appointment reminders and alerts, members of this generation indicated they preferred a phone call well before an email or text. Again, the boomer population still adheres to that sense of personal relationship and would likely feel better connected with a physician who aims to make human contact rather than resorting to the latest technological tools.
Wearing Your Health
Given that there is still such an open attitude toward healthcare and its technological advancements, one would think that baby boomers would be just as excited as their millennial counterparts when it comes to personal health trackers. For the most part, that’s true, as a survey by Accenture saw that 17% of people over the age of 65 are using some sort of wearable device. Many also noted that they are open to the idea, yet it’s not as clear-cut as one would think. Baby boomers aren’t always recognized as early adopters, and while many own and use smartphones, that doesn’t necessarily equate to jumping fully on-board with new devices.
Millennials can easily gravitate toward the latest and greatest gadget because it’s what most expect them to do, but baby boomers often have an internal battle that’s present. Those closer to being born in 1946 may find a wearable heart monitor or a remote blood sugar measuring device to be indicative of a need for help, an idea that independent boomers want to stay far away from. Remember, this generation prides themselves on being active until the very latest stages of life.
Yet as this generation continues to advance in age, physicians are finding this collaboration with technology becoming more and more essential. Starting in the year 2020, older patients will require a significant amount of care and the implementation of wearable technology will help to relieve the burden on primary care physicians. The key to making it all work is to closely monitor baby boomers and their health data while still maintaining a level of personal interaction.
Can We See The Future?
Individuals in the healthcare industry seem to be bracing themselves for the coming years, as baby boomers are advancing in age and will quickly require more and more medical resources. The American Hospital Association reported that by the year 2030, more than six out of every ten baby boomers will have at least one type of chronic medical condition, thus putting more of a strain on an already impacted industry.
Despite the fact that baby boomers are leaning toward switching up who they see for medical care, it doesn’t change the reality that there are still appointments being booked and prescriptions being filled, albeit at facilities that may be accepting these people as new patients. While millennials aren’t tapping into the wide array of primary care physicians, specialists, and the like, baby boomers are in a big way and will likely continue to do so for many years to come.
As the population continues to age, naturally their care will become more involved. More frequent visits, more medications, and perhaps even the use of more wearable devices will help physicians provide the highest level of care to their patients. It’s even more crucial in these scenarios for baby boomers to feel they can communicate with their providers. While cost may not be a strong issue now, as we all age and inevitably begin to drain our cash reserves, this element may become a larger influencing factor in baby boomer behavior.
About Slingshot Health
Slingshot Health is a health tech startup that brings top healthcare providers and patients together. Patients bid on the cost of services and healthcare providers accept bids based on availability. Slingshot Health is unique in that it is a mutual marketplace putting both patients and providers back in control. Visit us at slingshothealth.com.