Marked demographic shifts among American doctors are forecasting a new future for the profession. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, women applicants to medical schools in the U.S. outnumbered men last year, 51-49%. In fact, women make up 60% of American doctors below the age of 35. And in 2010, 75% of U.S. physicians identified as white—now, 56% do, with 17.1% identifying as Asian, 5.8% as Hispanic, and 5% as black. Turns out, this has important ramifications when it comes to patient care.

Patients, when given the choice, are more likely to choose a provider who shares their racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds. This may not come as a significant surprise. A more revelatory finding, which came from the same study, is that people treated by doctors with backgrounds similar to their own actually report greater satisfaction with their experiences and rate their quality of care higher. It seems, then, that accessing a demographically diverse array of doctors is key to accessing some patient subpopulations.

One of the other big ways in which today’s doctors represent a very different target than that of conventional marketing efforts is their digital fluency. As natives, they’re comfortable across the gamut of channels and devices. And the point isn’t just that marketing efforts should meet these providers where they are—rather, their digital facility shapes, in some ways, the care they can offer. Millennials are way more likely than boomers to choose a doctor based on whether they provide prescription refills, test results, and appointment management all online.

The deepest shift of all is perhaps the least tangible. More and more doctors today are turned off by conventionally aggressive marketing tactics. “Things that feel really explicit about selling something or getting on formulary on my clinic — that’s a waste of everyone’s time,” said Dr. Elaine Besancon Goodman, medical director at Massachusetts General Hospital, to MM&M. “It’s so easy to send someone an email now that we all just get inundated. None of them really feel like they’re for me; there’s no reason why you should pay attention to any one of them.”

Dr. Brian Powers, an internal medicine resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told MM&M, “There’s certainly a playbook of very effective pharmaceutical and device marketing from decades ago, but the ecosystem has changed.”

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.