Engaging the Millennial Patient

An allergy practice leverages digital solutions and customer experience principles to meet the expectations of Millennial patients.
Customer Experience

It's official: Millennials are now America's largest living generation. It's only a matter of time before they also become significant healthcare consumers. While few Millennials have substantial healthcare issues at this time, providers are already tailoring their services to meet this generation's needs.

Last month, the Pew Research Center reported that Millennials, which include people born between 1981 and 1997, surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation's largest living generation, based on population estimates compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. Drs. Julie Kuriakose and Tim Mainardi, founders of Hudson Allergy in New York City, can attest to the influence Millennials are already exerting over patient experiences. 1to1 Media spoke with Kuriakose and Mainardi about what it takes to meet the expectations of their young patients.

1to1 Media: How do Millennial patients' expectations differ from those of other patients?

Tim Mainardi: We tend to have a young patient population. The average age of our patients is 31. We're also often one of the first physicians they're seeing outside of college. And they tend to have certain expectations that are different from older patients, such as in terms of [not] waiting.

Julie Kuriakose: I remember as a 21 year old waiting two hours to see a dermatologist. Today I would never wait that long for any type of service and we don't think our patients would either. And that's why we do our best to make sure people are seen within 10 to 15 minutes of their appointment time. Also, after a patient walks in and is checked in, they're not called in by a nurse, they're greeted by the doctor who invites them to their office.

TM: And if you look at our space, it doesn't look like a typical doctor's office. We didn't want the typical office that's in a suite on the 11th floor. We deliberately chose storefront locations and worked with an interior designer to create a friendly, inviting space.

What types of technology do you use to help you provide a better patient experience?

We incorporate technology into our everyday service and office visits. Like most offices, we use electronic medical records but we also allow patients to schedule appointments online through ZocDoc or our website's patient portal. Patients can request refills electronically and get quick questions answered by an electronic message. Some offices will charge a concierge fee just to message your doctor online or talk to them through a special number. We believe there's no reason to pay extra for these basic customer service principles.

How many patients do you have and what is your plan for maintaining a high level of customer service as more patients come in?

JK: We're already up to 6,000 patients after only a few years so we've been looking to hire more people. We recently hired someone with a pediatric background, which is great but you have to search for a long time to find the right person.

TM: A lot of physicians use ancillary staff to initiate everything with the patient. A nurse might weigh you, take your temperature, and take down your basic history. These are things we prefer to do ourselves. But we'll use ancillary staff for things that are going on in the middle of the visit. So an allergy test or shot will be done by a nurse at the end of the visit.

JK: And a lot of physicians will have one person to answer the phone, schedule the patients, and do fifty other things, which can lead to mistakes. We have one person in charge of the phone, one person in charge of billing, one person checking insurances.

Do you have a system in place for tracking and measuring customer satisfaction? Have you implemented changes based on your patients' feedback?

JK: We have surveys patients can pick up and complete but we haven't formally administered a customer satisfaction survey. We do pay attention to our patients' online reviews [on sites like Yelp and Google] and we've had patients email us to tell us they wished they knew something beforehand. That's why we started checking insurance coverage before the patient comes in. A lot of our patients were confused about their insurance coverage. So we try to call each patient's insurance ahead of time and that way we can tell them when they come in what they can expect.

We also have information on our website explaining what to expect when seeing an allergist. Patients also get emails confirming their appointment which contains more specific information about what they should do or bring before coming in.

What's on your roadmap for further improving the patient experience?

TM: When we started our practice [in 2012], our mindset was to just get up and running. Our main focus when we surveyed patients was on how did they find us? But now we need to shift to retaining patients and keep meeting their needs. Phase Two will include things like a mobile app. We've had this idea for a while, that once you know what you're allergic to, an app can alert you to pollen counts and allergy forecasts.

JK: Another idea we have is to let patients who know they are allergic to certain chemicals, type that chemical into our website and get a list of commonly used products that contain those chemicals so they can avoid them. And of course we plan to grow as a business with more locations and specialties. We ultimately want to create a one-stop shop for anything allergy related.