Digital Health Is The Future Of Medicine. Here’s How Millennials Are Responding To It
With all technological advancements, there has always been some element of a trust obstacle.
Email, YouTube, even today’s ride hailing service, Uber, all had to go through a period of market education rooted in building trust. When email first emerged in the ‘90s, there was an overwhelming consensus that it wasn’t secure. It was unnerving to people to sit in front of their computer, type a message, hit send and let it vanish into the Internet.
Or, take YouTube as an example. In the late 2000s, very few people (comparatively speaking) used the platform as creators. The masses were actually somewhat confused as to who would feel comfortable making videos of themselves and then upload them to the Internet. We had never seen anything like YouTube before—and as a result, were a bit wary to put our trust in it.
But today, technology users of every age demographic create billions of videos of themselves, upload them to the Internet, or send them directly to one another.
I believe that where we are on the digital health timeline for innovation is similar to where YouTube was in the late 2000s. And it shows in the data.
Millennials Are Leading The Way
When it comes to technology, very few generations have the dexterity Millennials do.
While older generations may understand and even fund tomorrow’s innovations, it’s the Millennial generation that is (generally speaking) more fluent in the digital world. And while one could argue that their younger brothers and sisters, Gen Z, are even more digitally savvy, they aren’t quite old enough yet to be in positions of leadership.
Taking a look at the trends in digital health care, it’s vital that we—as providers, as physicians, and as technologists and entrepreneurs—work toward a “Millennial mindset.” As much as we are solving for issues that exist in 2017, what we’re really doing is looking for the foundational elements that will solve the problems of 2020 and beyond. And if history is any indicator, digital adoption is only going to increase.
Here is a great example. According to a Rock Health study, “Forty-two percent of Millennials have used synchronous video telemedicine, compared to just a quarter of Gen Xers and under 5% of Baby Boomers.” Now, the takeaway shouldn’t be that since Baby Boomers aren’t using video, we shouldn’t continue asking how to innovate in that space. It just means that Millennials are the first to adopt the practice.
Keep in mind, Millennials were also the first to adopt and make famous today’s most dominant social platforms. The same social platforms, actually, that Generation X and Baby Boomers are now flocking to with the hopes of remaining relevant online.
What Millennials Care About In Terms Of Healthcare
More than anything, Millennials want to be efficient.
In this article by MediaPost, it’s cited that Baby Boomers see their primary care physician 80% of the time—meaning if they are feeling sick, they make an appointment. Compare that to Millennials who only see their primary care physician 61% of the time, and it’s not just a cost issue, but a time issue. Scheduling appointments is still a fairly difficult process, and for a generation used to instant access online, that’s enough to keep them at home.
Instead, Millennials would much prefer the following:
According to Rock Health, “half of Millennials have emailed with a doctor, while only a quarter of baby boomers have done the same.”
But it’s not that the Millennial generation is biased toward email. What they’re biased toward are instant digital mediums and time-efficient communication. They don’t want to call, be put on hold, wait, schedule an appointment for two weeks later, drive to their doctor’s office, wait, and then see their primary care physician just to ask if what they’re feeling is normal.
They want the same access to information they get through Google, without ending up on WebMD.
Second, and right in line with efficiency, is cost.
Millennials avoid going to the doctor and choose low-premium insurance plans because, while they know they need insurance, it’s a cost they have trouble rationalizing. Without getting into the economics and current state of employment opportunities for that demographic, the simplest reason for Millennials avoiding the doctor is because they feel they can get the information they need elsewhere.
There’s no reason to take half a day off work and pay a $20 co-pay to have a doctor tell you, “You’re fine.”
Millennials turn to the Internet first.
This goes for both individual research, and finding a health professional they trust. If they’re feeling sick, they look their symptoms up online. And if they’re looking for a specific type of doctor, they search the web, read reviews, and rule out physicians that don’t appear credible or lack an online presence.
Because this is how they make their decisions—which means we, as healthcare providers, surgeons, and health professionals, have to invest in this domain as well. It’s not just about the care provided in the doctor’s office anymore. It’s about the entire lifespan of the patient-physician relationship.
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