Healthcare providers strive to deliver excellent care to their patients. Communication styles and speech patterns play a major role in how patients perceive the quality of care. Even among the different generations of Americans, the preferred communication method also plays a significant impact.
New Communication Methods & Expectations:
A goal in modern healthcare delivery is to personalize the patient’s healthcare experience. People increasingly possess a consumer mindset with they visit a doctor, psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, etc. Patients are better informed due to the internet, but the information that they have collected may not be correct.
New communication and digital technologies, such as telehealth, are providing patients with increased availability to healthcare professionals. Mobile phones, email, chat and social media has altered the expectations of patients. Some patients prefer traditional face-to-face communication, while others are more comfortable with newer digital communication methods.
The internet has created a more informed consumer, particularly with the younger generation of Americans. E-visits using telemedicine technology is growing in popularity, especially among the younger generations who are known as Millennials and Gen Z.
Generational Differences Among Patients:
When patients consider medical services, their communication methods are influenced by factors such as traditional expectations, convenience and a variety of other personal preferences. Studies have found that most patients prefer one-to-one in person interactions with healthcare clinicians. However, when we look at this research in more detail, a clear pattern emerges.
When patients were asked if they would be comfortable using teleconferencing technology (telehealth) to communicate with their healthcare provider, older patients were the least open to this delivery method. Individuals who were part of the Silent Generation (1928-1945) preferred to visit a medical professional in-person 93% of the time. Yet, on the other end of the generational scale, Gen Z (1997-2001), this percent drop to 59%.
The percentages for the other generations who preferred in-person visits were: Baby boomers (1946-1964) at 91%, Gen X (1965-1980) at 78% and Millennials (1981-1996) at 67%.
It is clear that the younger generations of patients are more open to using newer digital technologies. In the future, a growing number of patients will be more accepting of wearable healthcare devices and telemedicine treatments, such as telepsychiatry. These results are not surprising. Older generations were forced to adopt newer digital technologies liked the internet, social media and smart phones. But, for the youngest generation (Gen Z), these technologies were always available.
Medical providers should critically self-evaluate their own perceived biases when communicating with patients from various age groups. When examining how different age groups of patients choose to communicate, clinicians should remember that people are complex and unpredictable. Some providers may unintentionally start using stereotypes when interacting with older or younger patients. Attitudes that a certain age group is more irresponsible, stubborn or grumpy are not helpful for delivering excellent patient care.
Dangers with the Growth of Communication Options:
New mass communication methods have created new opportunities. The fact that patients can now instantly message their healthcare providers has not gone unnoticed. Health professionals are using social media platforms to reach out and engage current and potential patients. These new methods of communication create new communication challenges for providers. The goal is that these new tools can help providers deliver better health services.
Due to the proliferation of digital communication technologies like email and social media, patient have much easier access to clinicians. However, there is a danger in this increased access. Social media allows patients to quickly reach out to health professionals. Yet, the ability to like, friend and post communications is can create ethical risk for healthcare providers.
Problems may occur when patients do not understand the professional responsibilities and confidentiality issues that social media may create. If appropriate boundaries between providers and patients are followed, problems can be avoided.
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