While generational segmentation isn’t new—we wouldn’t have called them “Baby Boomers” without it—healthcare marketers now have to pay strict attention to behavioral differences and customer preferences based on those generational preferences. From the first contact, members need to be engaged based on their own preferences. Although it can be dangerous to generalize too broadly, generational trends can help us understand how each member wants to be reached. At a minimum, it gives us a starting point.

A strong, integrated health engagement strategy begins with segmenting and analyzing the member base, then creating engagement tactics according to how each member moves through their journey. Considering each generation’s needs and wants can be a good starting point for understanding how to personalize that journey even further.

What Each Generation Wants

1. Millennials—The First Digital Native

According to Nielsen, over 85% of millennials own smartphones. If it’s mobile, they’ll engage. Two things about them that are important for payers and providers to understand is that first, they don’t answer the phone. And second, they hate advertising.

But healthcare providers get a pass when it comes to content marketing. Although video is king with this crowd, surveys show they’re more likely to read a 300+ word blog than Boomers. Customer-generated content wields powerful influence with this group as well, making CMS Stars and other patient-reported ratings even more important for engaging and retaining members.

2. Gen X—The Sandwich Generation

Although Gen Xer’s are often overlooked as a segment (they comprise only 25% of the population) this group still has the highest earning and spending power of any generation alive today. More digitally connected than their parents, they still respond to traditional advertising and marketing techniques, so an integrated health engagement strategy is key. Gen Xer’s also respond well to video – in fact almost 80% view online videos regularly. Pew Research Center reports that almost 90% of this generation is online daily. They still respond to email too, apparently.

3. Baby Boomers—The Wise Ones

Marketers have known since the early ‘80s that Boomers get the products and services that Boomers want. The market makes sure that happens since they comprised the largest earning and purchasing segment.

More than any other segment, Boomers value personal contact when it’s time to cross the divide between investigating interests and taking action. They are the most likely of any segment to want to talk with a real person before making a purchase. They also respond better than any other segment to interactive voice response (IVR) methods.

Don’t think of Boomers as technophobes or Luddites. More than 75% surf and shop the Web, and nearly half own smartphones, but this demographic is the least likely to use a smartphone for making purchases. Boomers are still high-touch, so mobile engagement campaigns —think Instagram or Snapchat—are out of the question. According to Nielsen, Boomers spend the most time consuming content online, more so than any other generation. Once again, we see that these habits and behaviors mean that an integrated health engagement strategy is key.

Thanks to the CMS Stars rating program, Boomers present a bit of a challenge where engagement is concerned. The oldest—i.e., Medicare-eligible—generational segment provides the customer satisfaction survey responses that drive better HEDIS ratings for more Stars and the intergenerational competitive advantages that come with them.

While Internet and mobile technologies are the most effective way to spread the message, the path to health engagement starts with reaching reaching people through the methods they most prefer. As we can see from this generational snapshot, there isn’t a “one size fits all ages” solution when it comes to healthcare.

Generational trends are just a starting point, but they can help direct communications methods that become more finely tuned as payers and providers learn how to capture and share data for better outcomes overall.