The majority of Boomers, Cromer noted, are relatively good with technology—and expect their providers to be technologically adept, too. "It's not like they've never heard of the Internet. They're online, they're texting and using Facebook, and many are already using patient portals, or using tools like telehealth when they're available and convenient," she said.
A 2016 Pew Research survey found that 67 percent of adults ages 65 and older go online, while 42 percent own smartphones and 34 percent use social media. The numbers are higher among more affluent and educated seniors, and among younger Boomers. For example, 83 percent of Baby Boomers ages 59 and younger go online, as do 76 percent of Boomers ages 60-69.
And other studies and surveys support the Pew findings: Among other things, researchers have found that Boomers who go online to research medications (51 percent), would be "open to virtual treatment options" (57 percent), and would "choose a primary care provider who offers virtual treatment over one who does not" (51 percent).
Still, Cromer said, don't assume that every tech-savvy Boomer will readily embrace digital health. Boomers are more brand loyal than other generations, she noted, so they tend to stick with the provider they know as long as they're happy with the care they receive.
3. Consider their comorbidities and other complications, but help them stay active
Boomers, as a generation, are predicted to be less healthy in older age than their parents. Sixty-two percent currently suffer from at least one obesity related condition, and as they age, their comorbidities and other complications will only increase.
Shaden Marzouk, MD, MBA, chief medical officer with Cardinal Health and a former practicing neurosurgeon specializing in spine surgery, said she factored in Boomer patients' comorbidities into the decisions she made around their treatment. However, she said most older patients wanted the same thing: to be pain free, walk and stand with ease, and do activities they like again.
Boomers are even getting more knee and hip replacements and rotator cuff surgeries to help them stay active later in life. According to the Advisory Board, Boomers are expected to boost the number of knee replacements by 800 percent by 2030.
In a lot of ways, Boomers are similar to the younger generations, including Gen X and the Millennials. "Baby Boomers don't tend to think of themselves as getting old," Cromer said. "And in a lot of ways they're similar to the younger generations." Some Boomers are still raising children, she added, while others are responsible for caring for their own parents. Many, despite reaching retirement age, are still working (or plan to work) into their 70s.
Healthcare organizations should certainly tailor the patient experience they offer to meet the unique characteristics of Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers. But "age is just one component of engaging patients," Marzouk said. "The most important thing we need to focus on as providers is to produce good outcomes for patients."