Many doctors and dentists are reshaping their practices with computers and other new technology to appeal to millennials. In the rush to attract younger patients, however, some practices are forgetting about the largest generation – baby boomers aged 52 to 70 – who spend considerably more for healthcare than do younger consumers, and who have the confidence to look for healthcare elsewhere if they cannot get what they want.
Twenty percent of the baby boomer population will switch doctors and dentists within the next three years, according to a new study that finds 35 percent of baby boomers have already switched in the past two years. Since boomers spend two to three times as much on healthcare than do millennials, according to Morgan Stanley, the potential financial consequences of this “provider shift” for doctors and dentists are significant.
Switching providers can affect patient outcomes. Changing providers can interrupt, delay or change treatment plans, for example. Patients may also need to repeat dental x-rays or other diagnostic testing in cases where records cannot be retrieved in time for urgent care.
Losing patients can also present substantial risks to providers who rely on a certain percentage of repeat clients to maintain a reliable solid bottom line. Patients may shop around to find a dentist they like. It may take also more time for a dentist to provide care for a new patient, as familiarity with a patient’s expectations and preferences improves efficiency during appointments.
What Baby Boomers Want
The results of the study, conducted by Solutionreach, show all generations of patients want more convenient and effective options when it comes to communication, and that many are willing to switch practices unless they get better communication options. The survey also showed baby boomers are interested in all the conveniences and benefits of new technology.
In that study, entitled Patient-Provider Relationship Study: The Ripple Effect Starts with Boomers, patients said they feel less connected to their practitioners once they leave the office. Baby boomers are using modern communication tools, such as text messaging and online communication, to seize more control over their own healthcare. Doctors and dentists may lose patients – and revenue – if the practitioners do not use these tools too.
Baby boomers are also likely to change providers if they do not experience seamless practice logistics, such as short wait times, pleasant office/staff interactions, and ease in making appointments they expect. Boomers responding to the survey were similar to younger generations in their desire for technological conveniences and their openness to modern communication tools.
While the millennial and Gen X generations are different from baby boomers in many regards, younger patients are in lockstep with older consumers when it comes to demanding convenient communication, including text notifications, email and online access. In fact, more than seven in ten Gen Xers and nearly nine in ten millenials would prefer texts for appointment reminders and treatment follow-ups over old-fashioned telephone calls. This ripple effect will likely expand as younger consumers, who will soon surpass baby boomers as the largest generation, increase their healthcare use.
Younger baby boomers, those aged 52 to 57, are “health tech data junkies” who enjoy the personal health data provided by wearables and other new technologies. Consumers in this age group expect medical professionals to integrate these same technologies into their health practices.
Baby boomers of all ages yearn to establish personal connections with the doctors and dentists in hopes of creating long term relationships with these providers. The risk of losing baby boomers to a competitor increases when patients feel like a number rather than a person. The new generation of healthcare technologies helps build these personal connections.
Square Practice, Inc. helps individually -owned dental practices, partnerships, groups, and multi-location corporations improve communication and help retain baby boomers and patients of other generations. Square Practice, Inc. helps streamline business solutions, offering comprehensive software packages featuring cloud-based platforms that allow users to monitor every aspect of their practice with ease.