Posted by: Ashley Choate
As with most industries, healthcare has seen its share of changes since millennials starting growing in their power as consumers, patients, and skilled employees.
The millennial generation, encompassing individuals born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s (ages 18 to 34), grew up during the development years for Nintendo and Sega and witnessed the birth of web-based consumer marketing. Their ideas about what to expect from any business—healthcare organizations included—is vastly different from their predecessors.
Some critics might even call millennials spoiled or overly reliant on technology—which may be true—but adapting to millennials in healthcare has had some positive results on how the industry operates.
Millennials are information junkies and mobility lovers. They expect good service, efficiency, and cost-effective solutions, and they try to stay informed about their options in all respects. This results in more informed patients who understand that there are day-to-day obligations in maintaining their health and that good healthcare doesn’t come for free.
For this reason, millennials often ask a lot of questions, expect interaction from doctors and staff, and want details about their files that can be accessed from any internet portal—as well as security for that information when they’re not around. Practices have had to adjust to these demands, especially since millennials in the U.S. now exceed the baby boomers, making them the largest living generation and one in its prime for consumerism and healthcare.
Fortunately, most of the preferences for millennials in healthcare are adaptations that can save money for both patients and practices, as well as make the overall process of providing quality care much simpler. Millennials are nothing if not flexible, adaptable, and devoted to low-cost solutions.
Below are five ways millennials have changed the healthcare industry in terms of expectations and day-to-day operations. While there are certainly negative consequences to a the millennial state-of-mind—there are negative consequences for everything—it’s not too far-fetched to realize that many of these changes have created positive results in the way the U.S. healthcare system operates.
Speed and convenience.
Millennials in healthcare environments want either shorter wait periods during practice visits or Wi-Fi access during wait periods in order to make the best use of their time. Better yet, they also enjoy mobile or telehealth options that allow them to receive basic care from a distance.
Also, practices and hospitals are no longer the only option—a change arguably inspired by millennial preferences. According to one source, more than a quarter of millennials surveyed prefer retail or acute care clinics over hospitals or practices. These types of clinics are a recent addition to the healthcare industry, largely due to the demand for quicker, easier alternatives to the emergency room. To practices, this should be a heads up to shorten wait times and improve internal efficiency, because the competition for millennial patients is always growing.
Unlike previous generations, millennials have a unique way of establishing whether a practice is truthworthy: the internet. Millennials, in particular, rely heavily on posted reviews and word-of-mouth through social media to determine if a healthcare practice is safe, sanitary, and effective in meeting patient needs.
To survive, practices have had to work harder than ever before to build goodwill among patients and establish a community presence as well as an online one. This change is especially positive in many ways because it pushes the healthcare field as a whole to begin placing patient relationships on a higher priority tier than in previous decades, a step that could improve the overall care of the population by establishing real, lasting trust between patients and doctors.
Cost expectations and communication.
One of the greatest fears for most millennials in healthcare settings is cost. Everyone knows that medical costs are on the rise, and increases in health insurance premiums and deductibles have done little help to many families manage. Generally, a large portion of millennials avoid healthcare visits because costs are often unpredictable, as healthcare is one of the only industries that has traditionally not set pre-established prices for common procedures.
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Today, that aspect of healthcare is changing, which will help many patients gain a better understanding of how to manage costs responsibly before they set foot in a practice waiting room. Keeping millennials in healthcare has become a priority, and the changes to the cost structure and communication processes is definitely a step in the right direction and a positive adjustment for the industry as a whole.
Previous generations have also loved advanced technology, though their options were usually limited to the kind that existed behind the doors of the practice or hospital office. Millennials take their technology expectations to a whole new level. They want instant access to records and information, and they enjoy personal health wearable devices that can play a valuable role in helping physicians manage chronic conditions.
Millennials are enthusiastic about any kind of new device that might help them manage and improve their health, and, thankfully, physicians are listening. The presence of new technology and improved options for frequent communication with doctors opens up new possibilities for better, more personalized care that could improve outcomes across the population.
Perspective and approach to healthcare.
Finally, millennials don’t quite see healthcare the way the last generation viewed it. The boomers visited their physicians regularly and listened to their advice, but millennials see healthcare as a daily and personal responsibility. They also prefer a more holistic approach to care, one that embraces the concept of treating the whole patient more than simply treating an illness.
For these reasons, millennials are often wonderful patients who take their own health seriously and are open to new ideas about how to achieve their personal health goals. Their preferences and demands have inspired massive changes across the industry, but the hope is that once the dust settles, a more efficient and effective U.S. health system will emerge.