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Generation Alpha: 5 Traits That Will Reshape Healthcare

Little Girl Wearing Headphones Using Smartphone on the Colorful Neon

My son is 5. He likes “Sesame Street” and superheroes. He zooms around the driveway too fast on his scooter. And when he falls, he still runs to me to kiss it and make it better. Like most parents, I worry and wonder about what kind of world he’ll grow up in. And because of my job, part of that worry involves wondering about the state of the healthcare industry when it’s time for him to start accessing it beyond the familiar walls of his pediatrician’s office.

That’s where you as a healthcare marketer come in. My son’s part of Generation Alpha, a cohort that includes children born between 2010 and 2025. The oldest of the Gen Alpha kids are only 13. But that means they’ll start streaming into your adult primary care offices in just five short years.

It’s not too soon to gain insight into Gen Alpha. These insights can have an immediate impact on your pediatric primary care and specialty care efforts. And the lasting effects can drive your efforts as you gear up for the next generation of adult healthcare consumers. Let’s talk about five aspects of Gen Alpha that you need to keep in mind and start planning for in your healthcare marketing.

1. Wellness is a greater part of their lives

When I was a kid, I was perfectly content to curl up on the couch or in a corner somewhere with a comic book and read for hours on end. It’s almost certainly a large part of why I grew up to work with words as a content strategist. My son is different. He’s a bouncing ball of energy. And if his mom and I don’t find ways for him to get that energy out, he ends up bouncing all over the house and getting into trouble.

Luckily, my son’s teachers aren’t as strict about school being for study and reading as mine were. Ever since the preschool days, we’ve seen regular breaks for exercises, marches and shaking the wiggles out. My son’s kindergarten teacher regularly keeps her students engaged with breaks to watch YouTube videos from Jack Hartmann and other creators of similar content. These videos incorporate lessons about reading, math, languages and more with physical activity to capture kids’ interest.

Continuing to intermix physical activity with routine needs will likely be part of this generation’s concept of normal. Make sure your primary care providers encourage that in videos, blog articles and other materials to keep Gen Alphas active and moving as they age.

2. They are even more digitally focused

Since the invention of the internet and the World Wide Web, each generation has had more access to online options. Generation Alpha is no exception. Some 65% of children 8 to 11 own or have access to a mobile phone currently. And that number will only rise as members of this cohort age. My son doesn’t have a phone, but he does have a smartwatch in his school backpack for emergencies — an unfortunate byproduct of our fear of school shootings — as well as after-school use as a reward for good behavior.

The Millennials, my generation, were the first to appreciate the impact of computers and the internet as part of our elementary education. Gen Z was the first to never know a world without these amenities. But for Gen Alpha, they can’t even conceive of a world without them. My son’s schoolwork required us to buy him an iPad for his daily reading and math lessons. He sees the world through screens. And he’s not alone.

Healthcare marketers nationwide have been heeding the calls for digital-first experiences. That trend isn’t going away. In fact, it’s only going to intensify as Gen Alpha matures. Ensuring you have a strong digital front door will position you for continued success with this connected cohort of consumers. Start working with your IT professionals and practice leaders to integrate tomorrow’s technologies into your repertoire. Experiment with options like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for wayfinding or other applications.

3. Generation Alpha members may have shorter attention spans

Along with the digital-first mindset comes concerns that Gen Alpha may have more trouble focusing than members of older generations. This may simply be a function of healthcare professionals being more aware of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and diagnosing it in children. But it also likely has roots in the fact that media in all forms are more accessible for Gen Alpha than at any other point in history.

For example, this past weekend, when it was my son’s turn to watch something on TV, here’s how it went:

  • “Sesame Street” on Max for 15 minutes
  • Then a switch over to Pluto TV for part of an episode of “Wheel of Fortune”
  • Then a switch over to YouTube to listen to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and the “Clean Up Song” to pick up his toys
  • Then he was bored with the TV and wanted to play with his Super Friends toys

This is the part when I show my age and say, “Well, back in my day, we had three channels on TV, and we liked it!” But it’s true — we made do with fewer choices. Members of my son’s generation don’t because they don’t have to. So why would they expect any less from their healthcare providers?

When Gen Alphas start making their own healthcare choices, they are simply going to expect more choices, more options and more personalization. They will demand quick, relevant and direct-conversion calls to action (CTAs) and virtual care options that work with their lifestyles. They will not tolerate waiting around for you to act. And there will be enough disruptors to the traditional models of healthcare (Amazon and One Medical have entered the chat) that they won’t have to.

And be mindful of shorter attention spans by having a presence wherever your consumers are. If you’re not expanding into YouTube, TikTok and other outlets for short-form video content, make that a priority. Start looking for ways to build a relationship with the people who will one day be your primary consumers. And share appealing messages with them everywhere they consume media.

4. Generation Alpha members are more emotionally aware

In our team’s work with personas and journey maps, we often meet consumers who see themselves as highly rational, only swayed by hard data and only tangentially concerned with their emotions as they pertain to decisions like where to go for medical care. Of course, this sort of self-view is usually wrong. Most decisions rest on emotions, not logic.

Thankfully, convincing people of that is going the way of the dinosaurs as the younger generations age. Younger people tend to be more aware of the importance of their emotions. And this trend is continuing with Gen Alpha. Even before he would talk reliably, my son would carry a book of emotions and point to the one he was feeling to tell his preschool teacher what was going on. And games like Mightier combine biofeedback with emotional regulation to teach kids how to control their anger and anxiety.

Rational, logical comparisons of consumers’ options will always have their place in your healthcare marketing efforts. But by understanding Gen Alphas’ greater awareness of their emotions and incorporating that into your outreach efforts, you’ll be better positioned to meet your future consumers where they are and speak the language they understand. Your personas and journey maps should reflect this growth of emotional awareness with younger generations.

5. Generation Alpha members are more concerned with their mental health

Perhaps because of the pervasiveness of social media — or simply because of greater awareness — parents of Gen Alphas are more concerned with their kids’ mental health than ever before. We’ve seen this trend growing in recent years as older Gen Zers have ascended into adulthood. And it seems the trend will continue with Gen Alpha.

Traditionally, for most healthcare providers, the four largest specialty service lines are some form of cancer care (oncology), heart/vascular, neurology/neurosurgery and orthopedics. With more and greater emphasis on mental health coming from these younger cohorts, you and your colleagues may need to consider pushing your available mental health services as well to appeal to consumers with this heightened awareness.

You may also want to consider adding more community support groups if your mental health providers can support them. With greater understanding of mental health’s impacts on overall wellness (e.g., growing acceptance of substance-use disorder as a behavioral health issue, rather than a law enforcement issue), highlighting your available resources likely will appeal to younger consumers.

Start your Generation Alpha testing now

I’m not ready for my own Gen Alpha to be an adult yet. Luckily, that’s many years off. But the oldest Gen Alphas will be knocking on your primary care providers’ doors (or flooding their email inboxes) in five short years. If you’re not ready for that, you’re not alone. But we can help.

Perficient’s team of healthcare digital, content and UX/UI strategists works with healthcare marketers throughout the United States on customized, holistic strategies to meet their organizations’ needs. Whether Gen Alpha is an important part of your pediatric service lines now or you’re making plans for them as adult consumers, we can help you lay the foundations for successful relationships and conversions for years to come. Contact us to learn how.

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Michael Adkins, Senior Content Strategist, Digital Health Strategy

As part of Perficient's Digital Health Strategy team, Michael partners with healthcare organizations to create informative, conversion-centered content for a variety of applications, including websites and blogs. Michael writes content that highlights clients’ service-line offerings, expertise in unique treatments, differentiators in competitive markets and additional factors that are important to patients.

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