What thousands of patients—from the silent generation to millennials—told us about their care preferences

By Anna Yakovenko, Practice Manager, and Emily Heuser, Consultant

The millennial in your waiting room is very different than the baby boomer who's sitting in the next chair over—and not just because an 18-year-old has vastly different care needs than a 65-year-old. As you've no doubt seen firsthand, millennials and boomers have distinct preferences for how they receive care, on dimensions ranging from provider loyalty to their openness to virtual visits.

To better understand how care preferences vary by age, Advisory Board's Market Innovation Center surveyed thousands of consumers to learn about the attitudes of millennials (ages 18-29), Gen Xers (ages 30-49), baby boomers (ages 50-64), and the silent generation (over age 65) toward on-demand primary care, PCP loyalty, specialty visits, surgical care, and virtual visits.

Download our infographic for a visual representation of the results, then keep reading to learn the preferences of each group on two important dimensions.

Download the Infographic

Physician preferences: Millennials want options. Baby boomers want stability.

Younger patients in our survey were less loyal to primary care physicians than their older counterparts. Specifically, when asked to rank their likelihood of changing provides in the next year on a scale of 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely), millennials gave an average answer of 3.78 out of 10—a higher likelihood than Gen Xers (2.69) and more than double the likelihood of baby boomers (1.81) and the silent generation (1.43). 

The generations also differed in terms of why they might switch PCPs. For instance, Gen Xers prioritized price over quality—they were more likely to leave their PCP because of a $250 annual cost increase than because of a medical error. Baby boomers, meanwhile, were more likely to leave over a medical error than a cost increase.

Younger generations were also far more likely than their older peers to say they had broken a referral to a specialist. Among self-referrers, 33.9% of millennials and 17.9% of Gen Xers said they had broken a referral to see a specialist of their choice, compared with just 7.5% of baby boomers and 7% of silent generation respondents.

Virtual visits: Yes, millennials want them—but so does everyone else.

The fact that older generations are more loyal to PCPs might not surprise you—but our survey findings on virtual visits probably will.

As you'd imagine, millennials are ready for virtual visits: 67% of millennials reported that they'd consider a virtual visit if in-person care were not available the same day, and 20% said they'd consider a virtual visit over an in-person visit if it were the less expensive option.

But it was actually Generation X, not millennials, who expressed the greatest willingness to try virtual visits. 73% said they would be open to scheduling a virtual visit if in-person care were not available the same day, while 47% said they would consider a virtual visit if it was less expensive than an- in-person visit.

Baby boomers were also quite receptive to virtual visits. 62% expressed a willingness to take a virtual visit if a same-day, in-person visit were unavailable, and 32% said they would be open to virtual visits that were cheaper than in-person visits.

The silent generation was the least interested in virtual visits. Only 58% said they'd consider scheduling a virtual visit if a same-day, in-person visit was not available, and only 20% said they would be open to a virtual visit if it was cheaper than an in-person appointment. 

The generations also differed in how they would prefer to receive virtual visits:

  • Millennials preferred video chats, followed by phone calls and then email;
  • Gen Xers preferred phone calls, followed by video chats and email; and
  • Baby boomers and the silent generation both preferred phone calls, followed by emails and video chats.

Next, get more results from our consumer choice surveys

Here, we’ve compiled the top findings from our three surveys of thousands of consumers—our primary care consumer choice survey, PCP consumer loyalty survey, and specialist consumer choice survey—to help you attract patients for on-demand services, retain patients in primary care, and win self-referrals in specialty care.

Download the Infographic

Want more from our survey? Check out the full results:

Download our research briefs to see the full results of each survey and learn key takeaways from each one.


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