From NHS providers to private or charity organisations, healthcare services are embarking on a new mission: to adapt to a generation of users that are more digitally capable and connected than ever before. To successfully engage Gen Z and Gen Alpha, organisations must start looking to young people themselves to ensure the future of healthcare. 

Failure to adapt to a digitally-led world can lead to a myriad of challenges within the health sector. The five main pain points are what we call the ‘healthcare big five’. In the best case, these lead to an increase in missed appointments and non-adherence to treatment amongst young people if left unaddressed. In the worst-case scenarios, these can cause a loss of trust and reputation among the next generation, ultimately increasing the strain that most healthcare professionals are already under.  

Participation People are already working with a range of healthcare services to identify and improve the healthcare journeys of young people. From our experience in the sector, we’ve listed below the five most common pain points healthcare faces and our insights to futureproof healthcare for young people.

1. Engaging young people while they are waiting

Pain Point: Healthcare providers struggle to keep young people engaged and informed while they wait for services. This includes signposting to appropriate resources, utilising age-appropriate social prescribing, and making effective use of web-based platforms.

GWI reports that on average, Gen Zers spend three hours a day on social media, with 30% using it to discover new products and services. Leveraging this digital savviness can help keep them engaged.

Mental health is also a significant concern for young people. Nearly 30% of Gen Z report anxiety and stress regularly. Therefore, providing holistic mental health resources and support through digital platforms can be highly beneficial and complementary to other healthcare services. And, executing this alongside local employers and community organisations is a must for ensuring the cohesion of healthcare and service messaging.

2. Supporting young people to engage in their own healthcare journey

Pain Point: Young people often miss appointments, do not follow medical advice, and neglect routine checks, which complicates their healthcare journey and overall health outcomes, creating a pattern of behaviour that’s difficult to break.

More healthcare services are seeing this trend in younger generations. Studies show that around 70% of Gen Zers only trust a brand after conducting their own research. This behaviour extends to healthcare, where they need more convincing to follow medical advice. 

A lack of trust in healthcare services can often be pinned to the innaccessibility of language within healthcare messaging. Healthcare jargon that’s difficult to understand will likely deter engagement. And, with registration forms, appointment bookings and other such barriers often consisting of extensive pages of messaging that can be difficult to decipher, this can feed into a pattern of neglect within youth healthcare journeys.

Secondly, this is happening due to the increased digital proficiency of young people which means they’re more likely to engage with healthcare providers through digital channels. Participation People recently worked with Xyla Digital to create an app to help young people manage waiting times for mental health services. Providing appointment reminders, health advice, and check-up alerts via apps and social media will improve adherence. 

3. Transitioning from paediatric care to adult health services

Pain Point: The transition from paediatric to adult health services is a significant challenge for healthcare providers, even though young people may not perceive it as an issue.

Creating a smooth transition and supporting young people from paediatric to adult health services is a change that could be communicated better. Young people need consistent support and clear guidance during transitions. A study by Deloitte highlighted that both Gen Z and Millennials value stability and support in their healthcare journey. 

Explaining to young people exactly how their support is changing when they turn 18 will address their need for continuity. This case study of our work with NHS Young Inspectors details how we researched ways of supporting young people with the transition to adult services.

4. Aligning in-person healthcare with digital campaigns and public health messages

Pain Point: Healthcare providers face challenges in seamlessly integrating in-person care with digital campaigns and public health messages.

The future of healthcare depends on evolving to meet the technological savviness of young people. 

Unsurprisingly, Gen Z and Gen Alpha are heavily influenced by social media for health information. Effective digital campaigns on platforms like TikTok and Instagram can drive public health messages home. Make sure that your campaigns reach these audiences to prevent users from turning to ‘opinion’ or unregulated advice. 

Participation people helped Merton Council create Merton Peers Educator project to ‘bust fake health news’ by leveraging young people through social media to share personal experiences with links to health and wellbeing services locally. These official digital campaigns ignited discussion and action.

5. Involving young people in creating health messaging digital content

Pain Point: Engaging young people in the creation of health messaging and digital content can be challenging but is crucial for peer support and effective communication.

Peer influence is incredibly powerful. Gen Z values peer opinions and user-generated content highly and involving them in creating your digital health messages ensures authenticity and relatability. 

Gen Zers are looking for communities and spaces where they feel they belong. Creating digital content collaboratively can foster a sense of community and support among peers. ERIC, the Children’s Bowl and Bladder charity, used young people to create and share resources that others in their position would need to help create a sense of community.

Ready to find a solution?

If you’d like to discuss how Participation People can help your healthcare service improve support to young people then get in touch to arrange a quick chat.

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