- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Two of the largest health care systems in the Dakotas are looking for ways to engage the millennial generation.

A health care marketing class at Augustana University led by assistant professor Jaciel Keltgen teamed up with Avera Health Plans last year on a study looking at Sioux Falls residents ages 26 to 35 who are no longer able to stay on their parents’ health insurance. The study, called MillenniCare, found that situational factors like financial stability and starting a family often prompt millennials to purchase insurance, the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1Sp10Yg ) reported.

Keltgen said millennials also seek health care systems that are quick, easy and not too expensive.

Avera Health and Sanford Health are responding to those preferences. Dave Flicek, chief administrative officer of Avera Medical Group, said they’ve introduced same-day scheduling to meet patients “where they’re at.” The companies also introduced blogs and other online resources for those who try to self-diagnose.

Sanford Health says its blog had nearly 10,000 visits last month.

“So when the question does arise and they’ve never been in for health care, maybe when they do a Google search our blog pops up and they start reading our opinion on things,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer at Sanford Health.

Health systems are also trying to make the experience easy for patients. Sanford Health offers e-visits that involve filling out questionnaires and getting treatment without talking to a doctor or going to a clinic. Medical advice is offered within an hour, Suttle said.

Both companies offer virtual visits. Sanford Health says it has done 2,351 virtual care appointments in the last two years, including e-visits and video visits. The average age for patients such visits is 40, Suttle said.

“We’ve had people in their 60s and 70s do video visits as well,” she said. “Everyone has the need for convenient care. It kind of brings health care to their fingertips.”

The health systems are looking into allowing patients to enter personal information electronically before going to a clinic. Sanford Health is looking at providing more options for virtual visits and text alerts to tell patients when they’re up for shots or exams.

“Millennials are kind of leading it, but a lot of the shift in technology and getting care closer to home can be good for health care,” Suttle said. “It can improve quality of care. And ultimately that helps everyone.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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