The doctor will see you on your phone now: Survey says millennial GPs want more digital comms

A shift towards digital channels of communication between doctors and their patients, via mobiles and short films hosted on social media, is predicted by a survey of millennial GPs.

Millennial doctors want greater use of digital tools, the survey found (credit: Unlisted Images, Inc./Alamy)
Millennial doctors want greater use of digital tools, the survey found (credit: Unlisted Images, Inc./Alamy)
The ‘Will Millennial Doctors Change Healthcare?’ study, for 3 Monkeys Zeno’s (3MZ) healthcare team, spoke to more than 300 GPs and primary care physicians in the UK and the US, of whom half were aged between 26 and 40.

It looked at a range of issues for health professionals including the doctor/patient relationship, the use of technology and job satisfaction.

The problem

The survey discovered that 89 per cent of millennial GPs found it hard to spend enough time with patients to develop trusted relationships, but that more than half felt this was one of the most important aspects of providing patient care.

Meanwhile, pressure on resources that made it hard for people to book an appointment, coupled with the lack of time GPs had to spend with them, was eroding the doctor/patient relationship, the survey found, and showed a need for improved communications.

What millennial doctors want

A strong majority of millennial doctors said they felt digital communications between GPs and patients was having a positive impact, while three-quarters said direct communication with patients via mobile phones had a positive effect on engagement.

Commenting on the survey results, David Berkovitch, head of UK healthcare at 3MZ, said the survey showed that both patients and GPs were benefiting from digital communications.

He told PRWeek: "Connecting with patients through digital channels can help put the doctor/patient relationship back at the centre of things where it belongs."

Berkovitch argued that while healthcare comms professionals had long worked with patients to make them more informed and proactive about their treatment, the same effort should now be directed at GPs to help them deliver "concise and impactful" information.

To encourage this, GPs should be given the tools to create short videos and podcasts, propagated via social media platforms such as LinkedIn, as well as augmented reality displays.

Berkovitch continued: "As communicators, we should continue to challenge ourselves to balance traditional channels… with more digestible content through contemporary channels that are based on their daily content sources."

He added: "This is a generation of doctors and, in many cases, patients who grew up with social media and apps.  For them, two-sided communications is not only welcomed, it’s expected – social and digital communications is how they engage in most areas of their lives."

BritainThinks

Strategy and insight consultancy, BritainThinks, said it regularly surveyed younger patients who said it was intuitive for them to access healthcare via technology.

Anastasia Knox, research director at BritainThinks, told PRWeek: "The use of technology in healthcare brings benefits for hard-pressed doctors."

However, Knox warned that not all groups would welcome the prospect of using technology to access health services.

She added: "There are still groups – notably older people or those who are socially deprived – who do not have access to the internet, or who simply have a strong preference for face-to-face communication when it comes to their healthcare."

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