Millennials (born 1981-1996) have surpassed the baby boomers (born 1946-1964) as the largest living generation in the nation. For the past few decades, companies have focused on tailoring to and serving baby boomers. However, this new population shift will have a significant impact on almost all areas of our society and will grow even greater in the years to come. As the U.S. net population is growing by one person every 13 seconds—or about 6,646 people per day—the younger generations will dictate the future of healthcare more than any other generation.
With that in mind, it’s important to understand what this generation is about and what interests them. The millennial generation differs greatly from others in that they:
- Love and embrace technology
- Are very (digitally) social
- Like to share their opinions and provide their feedback on companies and brands
- Value speed and convenience
These differences will have a major impact on healthcare, and here’s how …
Millennials Love and Embrace Technology
Since these digital natives grew up in the world of technology, they are very open-minded when it comes to incorporating new technologies into their lives. About 85 percent of millennials own and use a smartphone daily compared to 46 percent of adults, age 65 and up. Millennials are more connected to devices on a daily basis than any other generation. Their relationship to their phones and other electronics makes them more dependent on technology. But this dependency creates a higher expectation of service providers, specifically healthcare providers.
Evidence for this trend is found everywhere in healthcare. A Harris Poll Online (HPOL) survey found that millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 are 74 percent more likely to be interested in telehealth compared to only 41 percent of adults, age 65 and above.
Younger generations are comfortable with and prefer pursuing technology-based health services. Sixty-three percent of millennials would be interested in proactively providing their health data to their healthcare provider via WiFi or a wearable device. Meanwhile, 71 percent of millennials said they would schedule appointments, share health data and manage preemptive care from their phones.
While the number of baby boomers decreases and the current population increases their pursuit of technology, this trend will only continue to grow. The need for immediate access and quick results coupled with tech-savvy millennials will make telehealth a booming area in the healthcare industry in years to come.
Millennials Are Very (Digitally) Social
The millennials have changed the definition of “being social.” This is no longer an interpersonal term; it’s a digital term. For millennials, “being social” is closely tied to social media and their need to share and receive information online. They are constantly reading posts from friends and sharing their own experiences. Since they are extremely active on social media, they are more susceptible to the opinions of others which translates to their healthcare interactions and preferences. While looking for a healthcare provider, for example, millennials will most likely search online for information and reviews. In fact, according to a consumer survey from PNC Healthcare, half of millennials and Gen-Xers use online reviews to select healthcare providers compared to 40 percent of baby boomers.
Millennials Share Their Opinions
Nearly 50 percent of millennials rely on online word-of-mouth using review sites, such as Yelp, when searching for a provider. The importance of online reputation and patient experience is greatly rising due to their online activity. With that said, patient satisfaction will increasingly gain importance in the future, as a negative experience can lead to a poor online reputation. With the millennial generation trusting what their peers are writing, this might present an issue in the future for many healthcare providers.
Millennials Value Speed and Convenience
In the end, millennials want healthcare that is delivered quickly and efficiently. Thirty-four percent prefer retail clinics and 24 percent prefer acute care clinics. Walk-in clinics are favored for quick treatments rather than waiting a day or two for appointments with primary care physicians. In the eyes of millennials, primary care physicians are seen as the last resort, whereas baby boomers would not hesitate to visit their doctors. Clinics treating a general array of problems may become more popular in the future since their delivery is in line with the needs of millennials.
Millennials Control the Future of Healthcare
This generation of millennials will define the future of healthcare in the United States. With the largest population, their needs will become the most pressing. Healthcare providers will have to shift their focus to meet these needs. Otherwise, these digitally-savvy individuals will not hesitate to pursue new healthcare options if it’s quicker and easier for them.
Healthcare providers must transform their operations to become more patient-focused, agile and technology-driven. In addition, as payers are also increasingly taking patient satisfaction and reputation into account when it comes to reimbursing doctors, the millennials and their appetite for sharing their opinions and experiences will have a huge impact on healthcare providers.
In short: The millennials control the future of healthcare.