Bridging the Generations for Communication: Embracing Technology and Engaging Each Other
(ED: A deep, thoughtful article that goes to the core of communication; both parties must understand where the other is coming from, and how much internet savvy they have, if any)
by Jon Mertz, Member, HIMSS Social Media Task Force
At any given time, there is a span of six generations in our society. Change seems to accelerate with each passing generation. Although many innovations in healthcare have occurred over the current six generations, the basics remain. They involve office visits and silos of paper.
This is changing, too, as electronic health records (EHRs) are increasingly being used and combined with many, many more apps for personal care that track steps, weight, calories, sugar levels, etc., and the list grows extensively from here.
All of this is positive, yet adoption and use is lagging. There are many conversations about engaged patients or e-patients, and more mainstream articles now appear about patients embracing technology to better manage their health.
Human interaction is an important element that brings each generation forward and raises the level of usage and understanding of what these changes could (and should) all mean. Each generation brings a unique set of traits and experiences. It is important to share each perspective and to offer a hand in bringing understanding and usage forward.
Generational Characteristics: Just look at the mix of generational differences:
It is an amazing mix that should work together to advance healthcare.
Over the past few weeks, I asked individuals from each generation to give me their thoughts about their experiences with healthcare technology. It is a diverse mix from retirees to students. Outlined below is a glimpse into some health IT insights across the generations.
GI Generation (Before 1936)
“One of our physicians suggested we look at their portal. He thought we might find it useful and save some time. Sign-up was very simple. At first, I was a little skeptical in doing this versus using the telephone. This is a challenge at times in navigating through the switchboard. Using the portal has been very easy and has improved our interaction with clinicians.” Eugene Morosoli
Silent Generation (1937-1945)
“I have only used the internet to find out information on illnesses or definitions of illnesses. I found the information very useful. I would be happy to have a program to organize my appointments and medical records. The technology has to be very user friendly or I don’t want to be bothered.” Ione Blanks
Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
“Does Web MD count as a portal? Otherwise, neither my husband nor I have used any kind of health care technology application.” Kathy Johnson
Generation X (1965-1976)
“At my last physician visit, I was given instructions on how to register for their new patient portal. To my knowledge, based upon the information I was given, this portal would be used to send an e-mail message to notify me that my lab and test results were ready to be viewed on the patient portal. I quickly realized that this was not the only information now available to me. I had access to a wealth of information that included physician’s chart notes, blood pressure results, current prescriptions and family history notes. In the past, I have found myself trying to remember parts of the conversation with my physician or what something was named and now it is all available at my fingertips!” Charlotte Keating
Millennial Generation (1977-1993)
“I think it has its pluses and minuses. On one end, technology is great for keeping the medical record and having all the information in one area instead of searching through records upon records. But the negative of technology can be the amount of information out there for the patient. This can lead to a patient’s self-diagnosing themselves instead of seeking true medical care, which can be dangerous in some situations.” Mike DeWall
Generation Z (1994+)
“What is done to manage healthcare? I haven’t had to do this yet! I do think that a doctor should have a website with information about their background and awards, as well as being able to make appointments, access prescriptions, and pay bills.” Brooke Olenski
This obviously is not a scientific sample, but it does highlight an important point. Although the generations are unique, healthcare flattens the barriers. We are more similar than we think. By lending a hand and engaging in a conversation, we can begin to leverage the different generational perspectives and remove the barriers to using technology in the care of our health.
Generational Experiences: Conversational Starters: What we need are conversational starting points. Highlighted below are some steps to begin the conversation between generations.
We are all human, and we all have experiences. No matter which generation we come from, we need to begin to discuss our fears, successes, and challenges in how to use, understand, and leverage health technology and applications. Interactions within and between generations is what will raise our health literacy and take us all to a new level of quality in our health.
Taking the Next Step: A Personal Challenge: Over the next two months, identify four people in your family and community network and have a healthy technology conversation with them. Ask them about their experiences. Share your challenges and practices. Engage each other in what has worked and how to approach using the new apps available. Show each other. Sit down in front of a computer, tablet, or phone and begin to navigate and share. After the exchange, ask them to do the same – talk to four people in their network.
These small steps can lead to a giant leap forward for health literacy. Let’s ignite the generational conversations on healthcare.
Join us for this week’s #HITsm chat to discuss trends in patient engagement, an opportunity to engage with other patient advocates and influencers.
Are you ready to ignite a generational conversation on health? What would you add to the conversation?
Jon Mertz is Vice President of Marketing, Corepoint Health. Follow Jon on Twitter@jonmertz