A youngster wouldn’t hesitate to send a text message instead of calling if that was the handiest thing to do. It should be the same for any organisation that works with young people – offer them the channel of communication that feels right for them.
Most young people, given a choice, would use their mobile phones to chat with friends or family, search for information, play games or go shopping. With this in mind, any organisation working with young people should strive to lower the barrier to seeking help by offering them a channel of communication that is most familiar to them.
Whilst some young people may still prefer to access healthcare physically, these days, a high percentage of young people appreciate having digital options, especially if they don’t specifically need to attend a physical clinic. By handling routine matters digitally or providing help via messaging or virtual drop-in, time is freed up for healthcare professionals to spend more time with those who need face-to-face appointments or have more complex needs.
Topics that are difficult to talk about
In some cases, young people will not reach out to healthcare due to being embarrassed or uncomfortable by their condition or enquiry. Talking about sensitive topics like mental health or sexual health can be daunting for a young person. Answering easy-to-follow questionnaires online or communicating via messaging can lower the barrier of asking for help. Given these options, young people tend to share information more accurately, enabling future conversations or physical meetings to be more beneficial if and when they are needed. Some young people may also fear being seen walking into a sexual health clinic or therapists’ office. In such cases, contacting a clinic digitally via an app can lower the threshold for reaching out for help.
Open-minded but not purely digital
There is a broad notion that younger people are more open-minded toward digital care than older generations. Though this might be true to some extent, we have learned that younger patients also value face-to-face appointments. But they want alternative routes to communicate when a face-to-face meeting is not required or possible. It’s about having a choice.
People who work with secure digital services which require authentification know that the information is processed securely. However, young people may not always be aware of this. It is essential to communicate that the digital routes are secure to make them feel confident in using the services. Therefore, many youth clinics choose to have their own app displaying their brand, colours, logos, and names to increase trust. It is also essential to emphasise that all data is handled securely.
An individualised experience
Automation and especially the automated collection of medical history can provide great value in supporting organisations working with younger people. Automated tools collecting medical history through dynamic questionnaires can help the organisation prioritise incoming errands according to urgency and severity. They can also signpost the patient to the healthcare professional best suited to handle that case. However, such tools need to provide truly personalised experiences. Young people today place much higher demands on personalised services than older generations do.
Finding digital touchpoints along current physical pathways can bring easier, more seamless access to care for patients whilst reducing the demand and pressures on the healthcare provider. An automated medical history tool can help prioritise patients and signpost them to the correct care pathway in a more efficient manner. Digital and physical options to care can fantastically complement each other, lower the threshold of seeking care and improve the overall patient experience.