What Surgery Taught Me About Marketing To Millennials (Part 2)
In part 1 of this 2-part series, I outlined 3 lessons I learned about healthcare and marketing to millennials when I needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus:
- If possible, be upfront about costs and insurance coverage.
- Provide a single point of contact. This makes managing care much easier.
- Help us prepare for procedures by giving us important information ahead of time.
Here are 3 more ways that healthcare organizations can work on marketing to millennials.
1. We’re Not Special Snowflakes, But We Are Individuals.
There’s this common (mis)perception that millennials believe we are unique to the point of deserving special recognition for just being ourselves.
While that’s taking things a bit far, getting treated like an individual is actually something that all patients can benefit from—no matter how young or old they are.
So, even though my pre-op appointments with my surgeon, Gregory G. Markarian, MD, were relatively brief, I always felt like I was being listened to, and my needs and emotions were being respected.
When Dr. Markarian found out that I write about healthcare issues for a living, he knew that I would want detailed explanations about my injury and its treatment. Even though his office was hectic (they had just opened at this particular location, so everything was still being set up), he brought me to a computer and showed me my MRI, so that I could see the tear.
And when my parents wanted to know more information than I felt comfortable trying to relay to them, he didn’t mind that I put them on speakerphone, so that they could be a part of my appointments.
This recognition that I am a person with feelings continued with some—but not all—of the hospital staff.
Before the surgery, as I was lying in bed getting hooked up to an IV, a nurse brought me warm blankets for my cold feet. And when I was in recovery, I was starving but too groggy to choose between graham crackers and saltines to go with my ginger ale. Another nurse brought both to my bedside.
As simple as these gestures were, they meant a lot to me.
2. A Little Bit Of Clarity Goes A Long Way.
Here at CareContent, we talk a lot about the importance of health literacy—a person’s ability to manage her own health, wellness, and medical care. One of the main goals we have in creating content is to increase the health literacy of our clients’ patients.
I’d like to think that working here has boosted my own health literacy as well. But there were plenty of aspects to my experience that proved I still have a long way to go. Meniscus surgery isn’t a heart transplant, but it’s more complex than you might think.
Fortunately, there are simple steps that healthcare organizations can take to make to help.
For instance, 3 weeks post-op, I got a 2-page printout from the hospital with an itemized list of charges for everything from the anesthesia used to put me under to the bandages I woke up with. The total for all of the items was more than $12,000.
I had no idea what the purpose of the printout was. It didn’t say it was a bill—but it didn’t say it wasn’t a bill.
All I knew was that the total was well beyond anything I could afford. As I mentally began to make plans to give my 2 cats to my friends and move back home, I did what any panicking young adult would do: I called my parents.
After I sent them pictures of the printouts, we determined that these were charges the hospital billed to my insurance. I didn’t owe anyone $12,000. My cats would get to stay with me. I wouldn’t have to move into my parents’ basement.
Something as simple as “THIS IS NOT A BILL” typed in all caps across the top of the pages could have gone a long way toward avoiding that panic and confusion.
3. Marketing To Millennials Isn’t Rocket Science—But It’s Just As Beneficial To Society.
I really want to end this piece with a third point about how physical therapy is actually more painful than the surgery itself. But that isn’t particularly relevant to the topic at hand.
Ultimately, marketing to millennials is something that healthcare organizations can do pretty easily. It doesn’t have to involve coming up with trendy Twitter hashtags or putting QR codes on bus stop ads.
The payoff is pretty clear, too: Satisfied and health-literate patients. And fortunately, after my experience fixing my torn meniscus, I can say I am both of these things.
The only downside is that my friends were looking forward to adopting my cats. But this is one instance where I’m glad to disappoint them.
What Surgery Taught Me About Marketing To Millennials (Part 1)
On Christmas Eve, I sat down to read a book—and in doing so, managed to tear my meniscus. I didn’t realize the extent of my injury, but for weeks afterward, I joked that it was the world’s first recorded instance of reading-induced knee pain.
A month later, I mentioned the pain to a chiropractor, Paul Fisher, DC MS, during an evaluation for my chronic headaches. He examined my knee and said he was concerned that I had torn my meniscus. He suggested that I get an MRI.
This is where my lessons in healthcare and marketing to millennials began, including what NOT to do. Here are 3 things I learned before the surgery.
1. When Marketing To Millennials, Be Upfront About Costs, Insurance—And Red Tape.
I called the imaging center and asked for a cost estimate for my MRI. The answer was not pretty: More than a month’s rent (keep in mind the cost of living in Chicago), since I hadn’t met my deductible. Ouch.
I thought I’d be clever and pay Dr. Fisher for 3 months of care in advance, which would meet the deductible. I could stand the pain for a couple of weeks while they processed my payment. Then, I could get the MRI and insurance would pay for it.
Here was the problem: Dr. Fisher’s office had to process my payments as services were delivered, not all at once. That meant it would still be a while before my deductible would be met. Fantastic.
So, I did the next best thing. After my first couple of payments were processed, I scheduled the MRI. I still paid a good amount of money for it, but it also helped me reach my deductible. Keep in mind, it was mid-February and I had been in pain for nearly 2 months. Money was taking a backseat to the urgent need for relief.
And when the MRI indicated a possible tear in my right meniscus, I called the orthopedic surgeon the very next day.
2. Please, Give Us A Single Point Of Contact.
At my appointment, I was introduced to both the surgeon, Gregory G. Markarian, MD, and an administrative staff member, Monica, who would be handling my case. This is what the system did right. It proved to be one of the most helpful aspects in coordinating my care from that point forward.
Whenever I had a question or update, I called the surgeon’s office and asked for Monica. She got the answers I needed. She even gave me her email address, so I could send her scans of paperwork without having to track down a fax machine, or find stamps and an envelope to snail-mail it. This was very much appreciated, given that I was hobbling around.
For instance, it was important to me that the surgery was done at a hospital that was 100% covered by my insurance. Unfortunately, this meant I would have to go to the suburbs, about an hour from my apartment. Because I don’t have a car—and couldn’t drive myself home afterward, anyway—this also meant my parents had to drive in for the surgery. (They live 7 hours away.)
These different factors made scheduling the surgery akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle without any idea of what the final picture was supposed to look like. But Monica collaborated with Dr. Markarian and found ways to make it work. She was like a personal agent for healthcare. That’s the only way to go.
3. There’s No Such Thing As Getting Too Much Information Ahead Of Time.
It’s called front-loading, and it saves a ton of panic later.
Here was my little tangle of snafus: The surgery was scheduled for a Friday afternoon in early March.
All was well. But then …
I found out that I would have to fast for 12 hours before the surgery, since I was undergoing general anesthesia. I can barely fast 8 hours overnight for the blood draw at my annual physical without becoming lightheaded and nauseous. A daytime fast was out of the question.
With the surgery date only a week away, we scrambled to reschedule it for a morning appointment.
All was well again. But then …
I learned I had to find a physician to complete my medical clearance exam. But I didn’t have a primary care doctor at that time because my old physician didn’t accept my new insurance plan.
Finally, I tracked down a doctor and she signed off on the medical clearance. We got the surgery rescheduled for first thing in the morning on Monday of the following week.
All was well yet again. But then …
The Wednesday before surgery, I found out that I was supposed to have had blood work done during the clearance exam. No one had mentioned that, so it hadn’t happened. Now the surgery was up in the air once again.
I was ready to hang my head in despair. Fortunately, Dr. Markarian got wind of my panic and explained that the blood work could be done at the hospital the day of the surgery.
Everything was back on track. Would have been nice to arrange the whole thing up-front, though.
Details. We need details.