Pharmacists Can Create Meaningful Health Care Interactions by Understanding Different Generational Needs

OCTOBER 08, 2018
Gina Kokosky, Assistant Editor
Understanding the differences between the generations can help pharmacists provide more meaningful experiences to patients. Millennials, individuals between the ages of 18 and 38; Generation X, those who are aged 38-58 years; and Baby Boomers, who are aged 54-74 years, all have different health care needs and differ in how they can be best engaged in their health management.

Two presentations at the National Community Pharmacy Association (NCPA) Annual Meeting in Boston, which were sponsored by Merck, addressed how pharmacists interact with a patient population that spans several generations.

“While each generation has unique priorities based on their generational ethos, it’s possible to create a customercentric experience in the pharmacy that works for each customer, no matter what their generation,” said generational expert, speaker, and author Meagan Johnson, during the presentation Challenge Your Generational IQ: How Well Do You Know Your Patient’s Ethos?

Johnson explained that Millennials, who grew up in the age of rapid technological change, often prefer digital communication over face to face interactions. These young adults also receive most of their educational information online, and rely on peer recommendations, positive reviews, and first-hand stories for health information, according to the presentation. Millennials value and trust information coming from a personal experience, such as talking to a health care provider. Therefore, they may have to time to have a meaningful conversation about their health, even if it appears like they’re in a hurry, according to Johnson.

Convenience, flexibility, and accessibility are highly prioritized by Millennials, Johnson noted. As pharmacists are the one of the most accessible health care providers, with 93% of Americans living within 5 miles of a pharmacy, they are perfectly positioned to meet the needs of these patients, she explained. Additionally, the ability to meet with a pharmacist without an appointment makes pharmacists more flexible than other health care providers. Pharmacists can enhance the experience of Millennial patients by providing them with important information and answering questions regarding preventative health care, and ensuring they are aware of all health care services offered, according to the presentation.

On the other end of the spectrum, Baby Boomers were raised with a hard-working attitude, during a time when communities and relationships were highly valued. Baby Boomers may find Millennial-preferred digital transactions cold and impersonal, and often want a trusted and credible source of information, such as face to face interaction with pharmacists and doctors.

For pharmacists, the first step may be in gaining the trust of a Baby Boomer.  Pharmacists can enhance a Baby Boomer’s experience by recommending programs for increased patient adherence, disease state management, and more, Johnson said. Additionally, sending an email or text message reminder to refill a prescription can create a unique experience to meet their needs, while still remaining personal, according to Johnson.

Gen X patients fall somewhere between Millennials and Baby Boomers, with qualities from both generations influencing their needs. While Gen X patients use technology for convenience, they often still appreciate face to face interactions. Additionally, Gen X patients are usually focused on planning for the future and remain loyal to brands, businesses, and people who earn their trust. Pharmacists can play an important role in simplifying the health care process for Gen X patients by providing help with adherence and disease state management and helping them make more informed decisions about their health care costs, according to Johnson.

A second presenter, Tana Kaefer, PharmD, explained the importance of engaging different age groups in her presentation, Millennials to Baby Boomers: Promoting Customer Centric Experiences.

Kaefer emphasized focusing on patient experiences to make preventive health care relevant and meaningful for each patient. She recommended meeting patients where they are in order to understand their specific health goals. 

She noted that Millennials are more likely to come in for questions regarding travel vaccines, providing the perfect opportunity to review their vaccination history. Younger adults also are coming in with questions about fertility, pregnancy care, and infant care, as they begin starting families. Gen X patients are more focused on making healthy lifestyle choices, preventing disease, and understanding flu vaccination, while Baby Boomers are focused on healthy aging and seeking out preventive vaccines, according to Kaefer.

This presenter noted the importance of making sure the right message is being sent to the right audience through different media platforms and ensuring staff members are educated on identifying patient needs based on generation.

“You have the ability to help your patients as individuals. Meet them where they are,” said Kaefer. “Regardless of what generation they belong to, if you focus on what their individual health needs are, you’ll be able to reach them.”

The NCPA Annual Meeting runs through Tuesday.

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