Educating patients and convincing them to adhere to a complex, long-term regimen such as caring for their contact lenses is a difficult task that requires vigilance at every patient interaction (Collins and Carney, 1986). Patient education is further complicated by the fact that no two patients are the same and that stark generational differences exist among our patients (Roberts et al, 2012). Our oldest patients primarily belong to the Silent Generation (1925 to 1942), which was followed by the Baby Boomers (1943 to 1960), Generation X (1961 to 1981), and Millennials (1982 to 2002) (Erlam et al, 2018). While we cannot fully characterize individuals based upon their generation, generalizations can be made about patients based upon when they were born; this is especially true with Millennials (Erlam et al, 2018).
Millennials are distinctly different from past generations because they have had access to computers and the internet for their entire lives; in fact, technology such as cell phones and tablets is interwoven into most aspects of their lives (Hansen and Okuda, 2018). Millennials are also on track to be the most diverse and best educated generation in history (Hansen and Okuda, 2018).
The characteristics of Millennials have been described as feeling special, sheltered by safety rules and devices, confident/optimistic, comfortable with their parents’ values, pressured to achieve high standards, and team-oriented (Erlam et al, 2018). Millennials often tend to be perfectionists, rule followers, and friendly, traits that together have influence over how this generation prefers to learn (Jiang et al, 2018). Millennials are also cost conscious, which unfortunately causes some of them to postpone important health care (Hansen and Okuda, 2018).
With this in mind, Roberts et al (2012) made the following suggestions for best educating Millennials:
- Educate yourself about the Millennial generation (e.g., read books) and understand the cultural forces influencing them (e.g., electronic communication).
- Understand that generational learning style differences exist.
- Direct Millennials to specific resources and emphasize why they should follow your directions; this is especially important because of the vast amount of knowledge available on the internet.
- Establish credibility and connection with Millennials because they like warm relationships.
- Incorporate technology into their education because technology is a part of their lives.
- Understand that aesthetics and presentation style matter because Millennials have grown up with advanced video game and movie technology.
- Indicate that you are available to help with questions because Millennials are used to having support.
- Understand that Millennials thrive on group environments.
- Provide Millennials with consistent instructions and reassurance.
- Emphasize that multitasking decreases information retention (e.g., avoid unnecessary cell phone use).
Millennials are currently the largest generation on Earth (Hansen and Okuda, 2018), and eyecare professionals need to make an effort to tailor their care to that generation’s needs. Practices should specifically understand this generation’s culture and incorporate modern technologies, such as contact lens reminder apps and electronic patient education materials, into their education protocols to better connect with this generation (Roberts et al, 2012). Practices should furthermore develop eye-catching websites and launch social media campaigns to be more visible to Millennials (Hansen and Okuda, 2018).
The world is changing, and eye care needs to change with it to provide the best care possible to all patients. CLS
For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references and click on document #270.