How 6 health systems are personalizing patient experience for baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z  

With multiple generations involved in the healthcare system, hospitals are finding new ways to transform patient experience and offering different technology initiatives to accommodate baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z's expectations. 

Here, six hospital and health system execs share how their organizations manage different generational experiences for baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z patients. 

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Question: How are you balancing the needs and preferences of baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z for a better and more personalized patient experience?

David Kerwar, chief product officer and head of consumer digital innovations at Mount Sinai Health System (New York City): We feel there’s a great opportunity to customize the patient and consumer experience through digital innovation, allowing us to tailor the experience to meet the needs of different segments. For example, our research suggests that millennials value on-demand services and a convenient, navigated experience, so we will offer a virtual-first, direct-to-consumer care program targeted toward that segment that provides digital capabilities to text to chat with a care navigator, an ability to get on-demand care that might start virtual and end in a designated practice near the consumer’s home or work, and transparency into out-of-pocket costs. On the other hand, we believe our Medicare population value the relationship with their physician above all else and prefer to interact with a familiar provider. That being said, we provide them with a simplified, mobile booking experience for getting care from their physician both virtually as well as in person. We also make it easy for them to message the physician’s assistant that they see during each visit with any after-visit concerns or questions. We will continuously evolve our digital engagement and care programs to customize the care experience to the needs and preferences of each consumer segment.

Nicole Cable, chief experience officer at InnovaCare Health (White Plains, N.Y.): While most of our business is Medicare Advantage, we do have some parts of our organization that are fee-for-service. This lends itself to serving a diverse group of individuals across all ages.  InnovaCare Health is addressing the needs and preferences of our member/patient population by using technology and patient/member voices in our work.  

We know patients/members want to be listened to, communicated with in a way they understand and treated with courtesy and respect.

  • We have started to ask and solicit information on communication preference as it relates to technology. We ask what kind of phone they are using; do they know how to use Zoom; and if they are comfortable with telehealth. This has led us to create specific training for those who are hesitant to use technology and also allows us to create relevant content.
  • We have leveraged technology and made enhancements of our members' application so that patients/members and their families can see the medical records of their loved ones.  We realized that having access to your medical history is important. Therefore, our marketing and communication team has worked hard to ensure our customers understand the tool and what it can do for them.
  • We have also introduced training to our staff on how to handle speaking to specific patient/member populations such as sensitivity training and Hear USA training designed to help understand hearing loss. 
  • We are addressing health literacy as we see it impacting patients and members across all ages. We created a Member and Family Advisory Council to help us ensure we are balancing their needs and preferences as members/patients of our organization, leading us to a more personalized service.

Jen Doorly Magaziner, senior director of strategy and innovation at Boston Children's Hospital: Given that we are a children’s hospital, our patient families skew a bit younger. Our job within the digital team is to identify technology that can make it easier for our busy, digital-native parents and guardians to access us and stay engaged before and after their visit. For the kids, Gen Z and Gen Alpha, we think about how to leverage technology to brighten their experience while they are here, from the interactive screens in the lobby area to the Amazon Alexa devices we are piloting in inpatient rooms. Across all generations, we want patient families to feel that they can connect with us and get the answers they need, even from a distance. 

Kathy Gorman, executive vice president for patient care services and COO at Children's National Hospital (Washington, D.C.): At Children’s National Hospital, we always strive to meet our families where they are to support the best experience. Given that our focus is serving children, the majority of our parents are millennials and Gen Z. Recognizing this, we have flexible schedules and offer telemedicine visits to support them. Our parents have access to a patient portal and we have online appointments available. Parents are also part of our Parent Family Advisory Council to help with policy decisions and care model changes. Parents are also part of our hospital-wide quality, safety and experience committees to drive improvement. Their input has been invaluable related to process changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also offer nurse navigators and parent navigators to support families, especially those who have children with complex medical conditions.

Iahn Gonsenhauser, MD, chief quality and patient experience officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (Columbus): What an incredibly challenging and invigorating time to be working in the healthcare space. This moment must rival any other time in the history of this industry when it comes to technology innovation, broad industry transformation and the incredible generational differences that the three distinct generations, boomers, millennials and Gen Z — sorry Gen X, but you always knew you would be the middle child — challenge us with. Each of these distinct groups of patients has such a different relationship with healthcare, their proficiency with and adoption of technology and their perspectives on the importance of health and wellness. As a result of these distinctions, each generation of patients has to be considered individually and no one-size-fits-all solutions can be expected to succeed or sustain. We believe that this is less about balancing needs and compromising the approach to one group versus the other but rather this is about the continued evolution of personalized care. As different as each of the stereotypes of these generations may be, there are examples within each that look more like one of the others than you might expect. With this in mind, if you are expecting to treat all boomers or all millennials the same way, you are already failing. As a transformational healthcare platform we leverage available technology to present our patients with communication and access that fits their needs. The future of healthcare isn’t a future in which patients have to compromise. It’s a future in which platforms like ours can flex to meet our patients’ needs in person in one of our hospitals or clinics; virtually through our MyHealth App or telemedicine clinics; through partnerships in our care ecosystem and even directly to patients in their own communities.

Airica Steed, RN, executive vice president and COO at Sinai Health System (Chicago): We are taking the needs and preferences of all patients into perspective when providing care and service. Our ultimate goal is to be the provider of choice and it is imperative to both anticipate the needs of our patients, as well as make efforts to humanize and personalize the experience. As a safety net health system with a large underserved and vulnerable community, it is especially important for us to take into consideration both the social determinants of health as well as the specific health needs of the community that we serve with the aspiration of keeping people well and eradicating health disparities. Given the unique differences in communication styles of each of the generations, it is important to be flexible when engaging with the different groups and making service as seamless and as convenient as possible.

Additionally, given the rise of the more informed consumer with the younger population, we are embracing technology like telehealth e-visits as an enabler to effectively engage with millennials and Gen Z. We balance this with more traditional yet personalized services for the baby boomers who much more appreciate convenience and easy access. A recent example that we are proud of is the development of our new Ambulatory Care and Surgery Center at Ogden Commons where we are providing a one-stop-shop to address all needed care services including hospitality and language services all in one convenient location with a personalized care navigator to help facilitate the care experience 24/7/365. At the end of the day, we are focused on catering to the needs, preferences and expectations of all patients regardless of their ability to pay or their generation that they represent, and we are truly making an effort to make a lasting difference.

More articles on consumerism: 
8 opportunities for digital health to support aging in place
Digital health usage was declining before COVID-19 pandemic, report finds
41% of Gen Z – and one-third of millennials – prefer digital encounters with physicians over in-person visits

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