Swipe Right on Healthcare?
Millennials Connect with Tech & Convenience
When talking to Millennials about health and healthcare, making sure it is communicated clearly via text, an app, or a user-friendly online platform is key. This is the generation of digital natives after all.
According to Pew Research Center and the U.S. Census Bureau, “Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.” Millennials, or Gen Y, shop, eat, communicate, and take care of their health in ways unimagined by previous generations. The technological innovations that have become commonplace with Millennials mean that healthcare will need to continue to adapt to be able to reach younger generations.
Dr. Brian Su is a Board Certified Spine Surgeon, the Chief Development and Strategy Officer of California Orthopedics and Spine, and just shy of being a Millennial himself. He agrees that his Millennial patients prefer to communicate through a screen. “It’s still calling the office and waiting on hold for 20 minutes. I think Millennials don’t have the tolerance for that, and I think they don’t have the time or perhaps the attention span,” says Dr. Su.
This group of young people is growing up and making their own decisions. With that comes healthcare with convenience, speed, and personalization. As the first generation raised with instant internet access, Millennials have high expectations when it comes to selecting a doctor and that doctor’s ability to evaluate their needs.
With telemedicine and telehealth serving as the new norm due to COVID-19, Millennials have not felt the same discomfort as older generations. Prior to the pandemic, many Millennials preferred to see a doctor virtually, stressing the inconvenience of finding time during the day to make appointments. According to Dr. Su, to support communication efforts for the Millennial audience “online platforms and algorithms for scheduling, video visits and being able to easily contact your doctor electronically need to be efficient and user friendly.”
When it comes to Millennial debt and making healthcare decisions, price and transparency also matter. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, “50 percent of Millennials avoid seeing the doctor to save money.”
Echoing this note, Dr. Su believes, “for younger patients, if they practice good preventative care, they typically don’t get sick. So if they don’t get sick, what’s the point of paying for a high-cost plan? Maybe they choose one that has a high deductible, and they just want to be able to get their routine checkups. So I think when you’re young, you’re not really thinking about that kind of stuff. You’re thinking more about your income and being able to save.” It is clear that Millennials prefer to save by choosing a high-deductible insurance plan that carries a lower premium. Knowing they need insurance, they will often choose the plan that will cost the least.
In matters of health, another influence on Millennials’ decisions is confusion, and likely ignorance, regarding how intimidatingly complex modern healthcare works. Transparency is vital.
This younger generation is generally more health-conscious and more proactive. They are willing to spend more money on gym memberships or fitness classes, healthy food, and self-care products. When asked about the difference between health and healthcare, Dr. Su says, “Health is preventative. Most people think of healthcare as reactive, whereas someone’s health really should be proactive. There’s very much been a push towards preventative care and being proactive. Whether it be eating healthier, more vegetarian, eating less red meat, drinking less alcohol, and so on.” Dr. Su finds that Millennials are more in tune with this movement since healthcare costs can be unpredictable.
As a Global 1 surgeon, Dr. Su understands the benefits of cost transparency for his patients. He has seen first-hand patients delay their procedure based on the cost estimate. With cost sensitivity at such high levels, it is essential to make sure patients of all generations understand their medical bill. With a bundled payment program for healthcare procedures, there is a well-established strategy for managing costs and removing economic uncertainty. For the patient, there is one price, one payment, and no surprises.
With the growing number of Millennials in the workforce becoming doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and so on, it might be an adjustment for Baby Boomers to be treated by someone who could be the same age as their own child.
According to Dr. Su’s Clinical Assistant and Research Coordinator, Christian O’Connor, a Millennial himself, “A lot of patients we see, especially in the older demographic, are hesitant and/or unwilling to see a physician assistant or nurse practitioner as they believe they are unqualified. If there is any drawback between seeing a doctor and a lower-level practitioner, the gap is very small. I’ve found the Baby Boomer generation is pretty unwilling to pursue that route but the younger generation is willing and thankful to be able to be seen sooner and get the same level of care through lower-level practitioners.”
Despite age prejudices, aging Baby Boomers currently do or will eventually lean on their Millennial children to be a healthcare advocate for them. “It’s actually extremely helpful and improves the quality of care for the patient if a family member is present,” says Dr. Su. “Whether or not it’s a son, daughter, spouse, it just has to be somebody that’s a healthcare advocate. As a patient gets older, it’s important because at the end of the day it’s more information to help the physician.” Ultimately the Millennial generation is going to transform the way healthcare is delivered.
It’s no surprise Millennials and even Gen X are turning to fast-acting membership-based medical practices like Forward and One Medical. O’Connor says, “About 10% of our patients are referrals from One Medical with patients generally being in their 40s, or Gen X.” The medical industry is taking the appropriate steps to evolve and meet quick service expectations by making healthcare on these platforms affordable, accessible, and enjoyable.
The healthcare industry must take notice as Millennials present new and distinct challenges. So, will this younger generation swipe left or right?