Tips for Communication Across Generations

As Baby Boomers continue to age and Millennials start families, it’s more apparent than ever that there are very distinct differences in the generations you serve in a medical facility. The technology each generation has grown up with is different—we all learned to interact with the world, and each other, in different ways. This trend is in no way slowing down; late teens about to become adults will be increasingly tech-savvy and perhaps increasingly impatient. This can present challenges to different departments in your hospital or medical facility that are responsible for communicating with this wide array of patients. There are strategies, however, that can help you bridge the gap and communicate effectively with all generations.

Utilize Multiple Communication Methods

Older generations tend to prefer communication via the phone or face-to-face. Millennials and younger generations, on the other hand, prefer text, email, and other methods that don’t necessarily require an on-the-spot response. By relying on one specific method over another, you may alienate a specific generation, or at least have difficulty getting hold of them.

If you’re able, ask the patient which way they prefer to receive communication, and cater your communication to them. You never know: a Boomer may prefer to receive texts over phone calls.

Don’t Use Slang

This should serve as a general rule, but slang can alienate different generations. Idioms and other turns of phrase are very specific —not everyone will understand them. This is especially applicable when it comes to technology. Trying to understand their payment responsibilities can be difficult enough for any generation to grasp, so focus on using simple language that is easily understood. When it comes to walking patients through using online resources, come up with a simple explanation that can be understood by even the least tech-savvy individual.

Learn and Understand the Values

Every generation values different things based on the circumstances in which they grew up. For example, members of the Silent Generation value expert opinions and generally follow rules. Millennials, on the other hand, prefer to-the-point conversations and enjoy having multiple options to choose from.

Don’t assume that everyone will share the same values simply based on their generation, but this knowledge can be a great tool if you experience any difficulty communicating your points. Also, keep in mind that these values aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive; in the end, everyone will value your help.

Patience and Education

Perhaps above all, it’s important to be patient when speaking to a member of any generation about something they don’t understand. For example, if you’re communicating the instructions for using an online pay portal, different generations will pick that up in different ways. Educate them in such a way that your goal is accomplished without sounding condescending or like you’re rushing them off the phone.

The more effectively you communicate with patients across generational divides, the more satisfied they will be. Satisfied patients are more likely to revisit your facility for services in the future. Communicate clearly, and keep them coming back.


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