As healthcare consumerism continues to rise, ensuring patients have great financial experiences is essential for them to meet their financial obligations. Providers now need to develop better strategies for engaging patients in order to protect their bottom line.

A 2019 Patient Finance survey of 1,000 patient respondents conducted by ORC International revealed that 2 in 5 consumers would switch healthcare providers if it meant they could have access to financing and payment plans.

In addition, a TransUnion survey also found that nearly three-quarters of younger individuals did not pay their patient financial responsibility in full in 2016.

Better patient engagement can significantly improve patient outcomes and boost the bottom line. For providers to provide effective patient engagement, they must understand some subtle; and some not-so-subtle differences in generations.

By understanding generational trends and preferences, providers will be able to forge better relationships with their patients. Key differences may include habits and preferences related to technology, communications, decision-making, and payments.

Here are some patient financial engagement strategies to consider:

More Frequent Communication

According to a survey conducted by Intrado, 64% of Baby Boomers say they wanted providers to communicate more often between appointments. Surprisingly, even more Millennials than boomers say they want to engage with their doctors between appointments as 76% of Millennials wish for more frequent communication.

Online and mobile channels are key to providing frequent communication. According to a 2017 study by LivePerson, 65% of Gen Z and Millennials globally (the U.S figure is even higher at 73.7%) are more likely to communicate via email, text, and social media than in person. Another survey found Millennials prefer texting over email, phone, and social media to communicate with businesses.

Price Transparency Upfront

The TransUnion Healthcare multi-generational survey found that nearly half of Millennials (46%) would be more likely to pay their medical bills if they were provided an estimate of their healthcare costs at the point of service.

A recent survey by PNC Healthcare also found that Millennials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to request cost estimates before undergoing treatment, often checking prices at multiple locations before making a decision.

Patient Financial Education

In the same TransUnion survey, 57% of Millennials self-reported either ‘no understanding’ or ‘limited understanding’ of their healthcare insurance coverage, compared to 42% of Baby Boomers who said the same.

Millennials do not have a good grasp of different types of health plans or basic health literacy. This could explain in some way their low rates of paying medical bills. For example, more than half of Millennials say they don’t know how a high-deductible health plan works yet 60 percent have that type of policy, according to a survey of 1,900 US employees.

Providers may need to use patient financial advocates to help educate patients and bridge this information gap. They also need to ensure that medical bills and all other patient financial communications do not confuse and frustrate patients.

Here are more key differences across the generations that can help your facility to customize the financial experience for patients:

Millennials (ages 24-35)

When it comes to Millennials, providers need to remember that stronger connections are better when engaging with the patient. In a study of 3,000 Millennials, Nuance Art of Medicine determined that younger consumers prefer strong patient-provider connections:

  • 73% of respondents stated that adequate time for discussion constitutes a better physician visit
  • 66% stated that verbal communication of specific recommendations would also contribute to a good physician visit

To engage Millennials, bills and other patient financial communications (e.g. newsletters and emails) could provide information and links to webinars, podcasts, seminars, and other resources on fitness, health literacy, or nutrition.

Millennials are also looking for messages that are even more personal—one-on-one interactions. For example, offering new parents discounts for baby swimming sessions at the hospital wellness center.

Generation X (ages 36-54)

Those from Generation X have a skeptical and discerning nature that substantially influences their attitudes about healthcare. They are most likely to believe that physicians and facilities care more about money than about patient well-being.

Sending them alerts about necessary follow-ups, medication adherence and even upcoming bills via text message or on a patient portal is the best way to get their attention.

Baby Boomers (ages 55+)

This generation engages more than is often assumed using health technology. The widespread use of smartphones and computers has influenced Baby Boomers’ adoption of technology.

A study from athenaResearch revealed that Baby Boomers are using their patient portals to communicate with their providers. In addition, according to Pew Research, 79% of people age 50-65 go online every day or almost every day.


Considering generational differences in your strategy can help improve the patient financial experience as your facility reaches new patients, communicates with current patients, and handles billing and payment.

Changing processes, policies, or tools to provide a better experience can bring substantial long-term benefits. Although generational trends and tendencies can be helpful, the individual needs and preferences of your patients and the specific trends in your practice ultimately trumps broad demographic profiles.

Healthcare providers that get the patient financial experience right will be able to build patient loyalty, which means repeat business and referrals.

However, no matter how good you do in all areas of care, if you don’t make the financial experience a helpful one, you’ve lost the patient satisfaction mark altogether.