For decades, Baby Boomers have proven to be powerful consumers and will continue to be the wealthiest generation for many years to come. Living an average of 10 years longer than the preceding generation while suffering from more chronic conditions that require medical oversight, Boomers’ demand for healthcare services is burgeoning. To capitalize on the trend, healthcare organizations should understand three keys to caring for the Boomer demographic.
KEY ONE: ADDRESS SUPPLY SHORTAGES
Paradoxically, as aging Boomers’ demand for health services is increasing, the supply of healthcare workers is decreasing. Nearly half of all registered nurses could retire by 2020, and a third or more of all physicians could retire by 2023. Because Baby Boomers currently comprise a large percentage of healthcare professionals, their retirement may result in an expansive healthcare worker shortage. To maintain the existing ratio of providers to the total population, the U.S.A. will need an extra 3.5 million healthcare providers by 2030, and while the number of professionals entering the healthcare field is growing, it isn’t expected to keep pace with demand. Therefore, healthcare organizations need to be creative in addressing worker shortages. For example, you may:
Try implementing new policies to retain older workers. Studies show that flexible hours are more important to Baby Boomers than younger and older employees. By offering more flexibility, some Baby Boomers may be persuaded to delay retirement.
- Offer older workers weekend-only and seasonal work that allows them to take extended leave.
- Allow them to receive full retirement benefits while letting them work part-time.
Embrace technology that will increase staff productivity.
- Implement a new policy management software with system approval workflows and archiving capabilities to improve efficiency while keeping policies current and easy to find.
- Offer productivity enhancement tools to help older workers more easily complete tasks. Such tools may be as simple as magnifying glasses or as complex as software and hardware, such as screen enlargement apps, voice recognition programs and screen readers.
KEY TWO: GET TO KNOW BOOMER PATIENTS
Baby Boomers are change agents and are the first generation to compel businesses to tailor products and services to their needs. To gain Boomer confidence, it is important to know them first. Healthcare organizations should become familiar with Boomer traits that influence their choices in healthcare. Baby Boomers are:
- Compared to other age groups, those 55 and older have the largest percentage (29 percent) of frequent participants in fitness activities.
- 82 percent of adults aged 50-64 use the Internet to research health and wellness information online.
- With twice the rate of college graduation and one-third the rate of high school dropouts, Baby Boomers have higher levels of educational attainment than previous generations.
- Even though younger generations are thought to be most digitally savvy, Baby Boomers spend more time consuming online content than any other generation.
- An Ohio State University study revealed that 70 percent of adults over 50 have used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) such as chiropractic services, acupuncture, massage therapy, breathing exercises, herbal medicine and meditation.
- Patient demand is the number one reason hospitals choose to offer CAM services, and patients access hospital CAM services equally through self-referral and physician referral according to a Samueli Institute survey of hospitals.
KEY THREE: PROVIDE VALUE
Boomers don’t want or need to “be sold.” They are brand-loyal value seekers who expect personalization from healthcare providers. Appeal to Baby Boomers’ desire to be involved in their own care through a Boomer-friendly online presence.
- Get ahead of the competition by making sure your website is mobile-friendly. Along with being easy to read and navigate, your website should be mobile-responsive. As reported in “The Digital Health of Today’s Best Hospitals,” 49 percent of the top hospitals lack a mobile-friendly website.
- Experiment with new technology. Offer personalized online portals allowing patients to schedule appointments, complete forms and manage prescriptions, as well as view health records, lab results and aftercare instructions.
- Provide pertinent health information through content marketing and cross-promote it online through your website, blog posts and social media. Research has shown that with their extensive vocabulary and verbal command, Baby Boomers outperform younger patients at finding desired health information through keywords and tags, making them an excellent audience for your content marketing.
By addressing looming worker shortages, understanding Boomer patients and providing them with value, your organization can more easily attract the important Boomer demographic and may consequently unlock the key to future sustainable growth.