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Beyond the Tooth: How to Tailor the Patient Experience to Different Demographics

By Planet DDS
March 25, 2021

By Dr. Greg Grillo

When our teams look at scheduled columns of patients every morning, they’re facing a cross-section of our communities. From a 20-year college student in the morning to a 75-year old retiree in the afternoon, the differences can be stark.  But how much thought do we give to the generational differences between our patients? And if we do, when do we start? While we’re skilled at helping patients settle into the operatory, their journey extends for miles before and after their clinical appointments. Customized care flows from an orchestrated effort by the entire team. First, we must raise our awareness about the people we serve and dive into their tendencies, preferences, and behaviors. While we can’t generalize characteristics, understanding the forces that shaped each generation gives us a foundation to personalize experiences.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Awareness is only as good as the execution that follows. And if juggling tailored experiences takes more resources than we can muster, we’ll fall back into business as usual. In our offices, that doesn’t mean we’ll provide subpar treatment. But we may not deliver the experience that well-informed consumers expect. That approach may leave us wondering what happened to patients we used to see. Today, many Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers open their phones and search for “dentist near me” on Google. In a recent survey conducted by Legwork , 1 out of 4 Millennials and Gen Xers said they primarily look for a new dentist through an internet search. Beyond that point, each of them may react differently to what they find if they click on your name. Customizing starts with the first click. With a little insight, we can design elements at each stop that help engage specific demographics. Here are a few ways to cater to every age along the way:

Stop 1: An Engaging Website

A practice’s website anchors the patient’s online journey. It’s just a click away from a search by a new patient, and critical functions reside here for existing patients. Millennials: Half of this demographic uses mobile devices as the primary online access point, and mobile usage is 14% higher for Millenials than other demographics. Mobile-friendly websites aren’t enough; aim for mobile-optimized. Gen X: This busy audience values usability in a website. After age 25, research suggests users need . 08% more time each year to complete digital tasks. They’re not old, but they’re nostalgic, and Gen X longs for a practical user experience. Balance function and information on your website. Baby Boomers: Older online users won’t spend much time on a site that’s hard to navigate or read. A clean design with clear contrasts and easy-to-read fonts will keep older visitors engaged. Tie It Together: A mobile-forward website from Legwork Websites combine uncluttered design, patient convenience apps, and engaging content that brings desirable elements to all ages.

Stop 2: The Essential Appointment

Visitors who end up in your chair come from every demographic, but small tweaks help increase conversions. And patients of every demographic bring their expectations from other consumer interactions with a growing emphasis on convenience. Millennials: You may be surprised to learn younger patients value holistic care more than other generations. For example, recently a webinar attendee asked Millennial patients how much total body health was something that had come up in their dental experience.  One Millennial patient, Michelle, replied, “I don’t think it’s ever come up but now I’m really intrigued by this and would like to know more!”  Hank, another Millennial patient, said, “It hasn’t been brought up to me, but that’s something I would definitely like to know.” Overall, 80% of Millennials say providers can serve them better by understanding their interests, goals, and motivations. Impress them by gathering this information before their visits and customizing their experience. Gen X: This generation juggles a lot of responsibilities, and they make up 33% of the workforce. Gen X patients value convenience, and they look for efficient appointments, including online scheduling. Make online scheduling one reason for them to visit your website. Stephanie, a Gen X patient on a Legwork webinar panel , said, “I LOVE the text reminders for all of us. It’s just way easier because if I’m at work I don’t get interrupted, I just see the text.” Baby Boomers: Expect the cohort of patients over age 65 to double in the coming years, and they’ll bring increased digital competency with them. Older patients may be more likely to engage our practices on the phone. Some appreciate voice appointment reminders more than text messages. Baby Boomer patient, Bob, shared as a Legwork webinar panelist , “I’m thankful that my dentist calls me and leaves a voicemail about my upcoming appointment.” But give them options, and automate delivery to help them stay on track. Tie It Together: A suite of convenient tools integrated into a single platform appeal to everyone. Legwork Online Booking Legwork Reminders , and Legwork Comfort are just a few of the usability tools patients love to find.

Stop 3: The Inevitable Exit

After we successfully deliver an implant-supported denture, we could consider the journey complete. But the patient experience flywheel continues to turn long after they walk towards the exit, and we don’t want to leave it to chance. Millennials: Online reviews matter to every demographic, but 70% of younger visitors share their healthcare experiences online. And almost every patient who chooses your office will check reviews. For example, Millennial patient Hank got his dentist recommendation from a colleague but conducted a quick search online at reviews before making his final decision. To generate more reviews, automatically request them via text or email after your patients step out the door. Gen X: Happy patients become loyal patients, and Gen X tends to be more loyal than older and younger consumers. When they discover a service or product from a brand they love, they’re not likely to change. Engage them with regular updates and insight that helps them cement their relationship with your brand. Gen X patient Eric said , “As far as rating [my dentist] online or going on their own website, I’d be happy to do it; they’d just have to remind me. That’d be the best way to get me to do it–ask me to do it as I leave.“ Baby Boomers: Older patients continue to adopt technology, and half of them spend about 15 hours weekly online. In terms of writing reviews, all three Baby Boomer webinar panelists said they would be happy to leave one if simply asked to do so. Baby Boomers are also interested in using patient portals, but the platforms should be accessible with minimal navigation requirements. Show them a single-click patient portal from your homepage. Tie It Together: Our teams focus on helping patients flowing through the office; that’s where their energy should go. But delivering more touchpoints beyond appointments adds key ingredients to experiences everyone talks about. Legwork Reviews automates the flow of positive feedback, and Legwork Campaigns keeps the conversation going with periodic emails, blog posts, and social media posts. Legwork Patient Portal gives patients a simple, secure home for payments and scheduling.

Patients Aren’t Waiting. We Can’t Either.

COVID-19 hit our practices from multiple angles and amplified the pressure to deliver exceptional experiences. Complex forces working before the pandemic picked up tailwinds that now demand we adapt like the most nimble brands in the world. Fortunately, we have the resources to stand out and help patients along their journey with tools like the Patient Demographic Marketing Kit ! Download this free packet today to learn how to communicate more effectively with every segment of your patients.