How do people choose a hospital? There are a number of considerations, but understanding generational differences and how they affect selection behavior is a critical step toward new patient acquisition and patient loyalty.

Members of the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, GenXers and Millennials consider a variety of factors when choosing their healthcare provider. Are you developing the right message for each?

The Greatest Generation (born up to 1942): “Direction”

The Healthcare Strategy Institute study shows that The Greatest Generation selects hospitals first by physician direction, then by prior experience, reputation and proximity to home. This aging group of people relies on primary care physicians when choosing a hospital. They want to be directed. They also have rigid definitions of service, believing “the customer is always right.” While they are a declining population, the Greatest Generation has the most hospital stays.

Baby Boomers (born between 1942-1960): “Engagement”

Like their parents, Baby Boomers tend to select hospitals first by physician direction, then by prior experience, reputation and proximity. They also share information with physicians and nurses, and research recommendations before deciding. They want to be engaged. Their focus on quality of care measures is critical, as evidenced by their use of third-party comparisons and ratings as a means of decision making.

GenXers (born between 1961-1981): “Education”

This is the first generation that starts to stray from the way their parents did things, choosing a hospital by reputation, then prior experience. Physician direction drops on their list of priorities, just ahead of proximity to the home. They want to be engaged, but, more importantly, they want to be informed about their care. They want to be educated. GenXers are more likely to choose a hospital based on their most recent experience.

Millennials (born after 1981): “Connection”

This is where shifting values are most evident. Like Baby Boomers, Millennials tend to select their hospital by reputation, then prior experience, physician direction and proximity to the home. But they also value technology and seek information from multiple sources. They want to feel connected. Millennials value health information technology and, like GenXers, are more likely to switch hospitals if they lose confidence in the care provided based on their most recent experience.

So how does a hospital market to such divergent demographics?

Although loyalty is developed over many years and experiences, an opportunity exists to foster it within every age range. While The Greatest Generation values reputation and Baby Boomers are more likely to consider resources, all generations consider prior experience to be an important factor when choosing a hospital, so providing a positive experience at each visit is essential.

Understanding these differences will allow hospitals to deliver the right message, foster loyalty and remain top of mind.