Power is shifting to millennials on all fronts: One in four Americans are millennials. More than 80 percent of all U.S. babies now born to millennials. Millennials are entering their prime earning (and spending) years and will account for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. The healthcare industry needs to act on these new realities.
Along with other responsibilities, millennials will begin making the majority of healthcare decisions—for themselves, their children, and, increasingly, their parents and grandparents— within two short years. Yet millennials have a poor track record in meeting their financial obligations in health care: Just 26 percent of millennials paid their medical bills in full in 2016, compared with 32 percent of all patients with bills of $500 or less.
To improve patient payment trends, many healthcare revenue cycle management professionals will need to rework their patient communications, delivery, and payment channels to cater to millennials. Here are three steps they should take in doing so.
Just 8 percent of millennials pay bills by check, and 61 percent pay online. In addition, 63 percent of adult millennials don’t have a credit card, while 38 percent use mobile apps and tools to pay bills and view online statements.
Although millennials are leading the shift to digital, all generations are moving to manage accounts and pay online and by mobile devices. An omnichannel approach to payments that offers convenience and ease of use and lets people establish preferences will remove barriers for millennial patients to pay their medical bills or virtually any other recurring financial obligation for that matter.
Online and mobile are important channels for communications, too. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. millennials are more likely to communicate via email, text, and social media than in person, according to a 2017 study, while another survey found millennials prefer texting over email, phone, and social media to communicate with businesses.
Just as Facebook, Amazon, and Google customize ads and suggest articles and products based on online purchases, social media, and browsing history, millennials expect to be known and treated as individuals by all companies they deal with. They are looking for relevant and consistent communications through all channels, from text to print.
At its most basic, this approach relies on customer segmentation. For example, hospitals might promote private labor rooms and other amenities for expectant mothers in an insert to bills sent to all patients of child-bearing age. But millennials are looking for messages that are even more personal—one-on-one interactions based on their data. One example is offering new parents a discount for a parent-and-baby yoga class at the hospital wellness center within a few weeks of delivery.
Millennials do not have a good grasp of different types of health plans or basic health literacy, which could explain in part their low rates of paying medical bills. More than half of millennials say they don’t know how a high-deductible health plan works, for example, yet 60 percent have that type of policy, according to a survey of 1,900 U.S. employees.
With the high propensity to be opened, medical bills and patient financial communications offer a valuable platform for bridging this information gap. However, surveys show that most current medical bills and explanations of benefits are more likely to confuse and frustrate than to educate patients.
Revenue cycle management professionals should work with their internal clients to ensure bills are clear and understandable. Beyond this important step, bills and other patient financial communications also could be used for campaigns targeting millennials to improve engagement and satisfaction, such as providing information and links to webinars, podcasts, seminars, and other resources on fitness, health literacy, nutrition, and other areas of interest to this generation.
These three steps are crucial to improving financial engagement with millennial patients, and they also can strengthen relationships and satisfaction with patients of all ages. Although younger generations tend to prefer digital platforms more than their predecessors, all patients prefer convenience, choice, personalized attention, and help navigating patient financial responsibilities.
Richard O’Rourke is senior vice president at Nordis Technologies, Coral Springs, Fla., and a member of HFMA’s Florida Chapter.