Changing how we connect with the new healthcare consumer
I have been working in the healthcare field for more than thirty years and have seen a lot of change. Early on in my experience, we were all focused on the day to day clinical care of patients; and although we weren’t talking about change management, we worked hard to make sure patients understood the changes they were facing and had the information they needed to make informed choices. Back then, the pace of change was much slower and the patient expected doctors and nurses to have all the answers. Their diagnosis was rarely challenged. Today’s healthcare consumer is different.
As a change management thought leader consulting to healthcare organizations, I am challenged every day to answer the important question “Who is the new health care consumer and how do I, in my role as change management consultant, effectively understand and address their resistance, needs and wants in this rapidly changing provider/consumer environment?” None of the targets impacted by health care change (patients, advocates, doctors, nurses, technicians, administrators) can afford to be the traditional ‘passive loyalist’.
We need to be prepared to partner with the new health care consumer in our role as change management consultant. For me that means really understanding the multiple target groups of health care consumers and being able to predict how their demographic will impact the way I support them through change. Some of what I learned is to stay focused on the emerging healthcare consumer – the millennial — and really understand their motivation.
The millennial generation (80 million 18-34 year olds) is the largest healthcare market segment in America and their new way of thinking about healthcare is contagious. As in other aspects of our lives, their thinking, actions and rationale will heavily influence other target populations. As change management thought leaders, if we understand the issues, challenges, concerns and demands of millennials we will be much better positioned to address the needs of all target populations impacted by change.
- Healthcare that takes care of the sick, but is also geared toward offering holistic preventive health and primary care.
- Healthcare managed at their fingertips. They grew up with a computer and smartphone in their hands. They don’t want complicated processes, paper and red tape.
- Reasonable price – willing to shop around for value using electronic devices anytime anywhere.
- Accessibility – healthcare where they need it when they need it.
- Fair treatment — healthcare is a right, not a privilege.
- Care should be well coordinated and comprehensive.
If you agree with me and believe that the millennial perspective will drive changes in the marketplace, you will also agree that simply improving price, quality, access, or consumer experience alone won’t be enough. These are real challenges and call for not only innovative solutions but also successful change management. After all, you can put together the best solution in the world to any of these tough problems, but if the people in your organization do not adopt the solutions and/or the new way of doing things then you have just expended a lot of time and effort and will not likely achieve the desired result.
Making change happen effectively and efficiently in the health care environment is complex and challenging. The aggressive and assertive nature of the millennial consumer will continue to challenge the ground rules and constantly reset expectations. Our ability as change management professionals to ‘connect’ with this critical target group is at the core of our ability to make a difference.
5 TIPS FOR CONNECTING WITH THE NEW HEALTH CARE CONSUMER
- Understand and capitalize on their use of technology – We have to play to all generations when defining communication, learning and reward solutions to address resistance to change, but we need to make sure that the design for access via mobile device is at the top of the list. If this need is not met, the Millennials will move on.
- Use stories – The Millennial group is more connected to each other than any generation before. They share everything they experience. Those stories of experiences from friends and acquaintances influence their decisions. Leverage what you have seen on social media. Use story telling as a key technique in your data collection, analysis, and resistance mitigation.
- Communicate on their terms – Web based solutions, e-mail and even text are essential tools. Keeping in mind that text should only be used for information that is not of a sensitive nature. Remember, they do expect rapid response.
- Feed their information need – They want open, honest communication. They want to control the amount and type of information. Our job is to make abundant information available in formats that are easily accessed and digested. The millennial also expects to collaborate, review and discuss. Make sure forums exist for collaborative conversations. Ask them what they want/need. They will be quick to reply.
- Listen to them – This group definitely has an opinion and will be comfortable sharing it individually or in groups. If you accept that as a gift and listen to their needs, you have taken a giant step toward connecting with them.