Millennials are shaking up how companies communicate healthcare information.
Across generations, Americans are concerned about false or misleading health information online, according to a new survey from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research on how age groups get their health information and how much they trust it. The report found millennials have little trust in healthcare professionals.
Of all generations, millennials had the biggest trust gap with their doctors: 38% said they trust their peers more than medical professionals, and 55% believe online health information is as reliable as information from a doctor. Only half of millennials were “very satisfied” with information from their doctor, the lowest among all generations.
“We were extremely surprised in many ways by the level of skepticism of this generation,” said Laura Schoen, president of Weber Shandwick’s global healthcare practice. “The thing that worried us a lot is that they’re so dissatisfied with information from healthcare professionals. Their trusted source is friends and people like them. This generation is going to be the most important generation in just 10 years. What’s going to happen if they don’t trust doctors?”
With millennials making more health decisions for themselves, their families, and their aging parents, doctors have to work to rebuild trust with this generation and find better ways to communicate with them, according to the report. One way of reaching millennials is online, with nearly three-quarters of those surveyed saying they find health information on the internet. However, they don’t always trust online health information.
Across generations, about half of Americans saw the benefits of online health information, like the ease of finding information, the ability to fact-check it, and the amount of health information on any topic. Yet 52% said they are concerned with false and misleading online health information. That number jumps even higher with health information on social media, where 83% said they are concerned information is incorrect or misleading.
“There is so much conflicting information and the information is so complex that to be successful in the future, it’s important to make everything more fact-based, research-based, and authority-based,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber. “We have to make it simple and make it available where people are. They’re overloaded with sources, channels, and people giving them advice; it’s important for companies to hone in on the simplest, most clear way to communicating information.”
Schoen said the results should prompt a rethinking of how health content is placed online because the strategies that work to reach baby boomers simply won’t work for millennials.
She suggested that healthcare companies look at all of the information online about a health topic before they launch a campaign to assess if it is conflicting and then reduce the chances of confusing their audience. Then, their own campaigns should be simple, accurate, and credible.
“We envision this [research] as a wakeup call in terms of shining the light on the complexities of communication and driving this generation to take healthcare action,” Schoen said. “Since the level of distrust seems to be higher than previous generations, it’s going to take more effort, more repetition, and more involvement by people who are credible to make them see the light.”