What healthcare means to millennials, what millennials mean for healthcare

The shift in demographic power from Baby Boomers to Millennials offers all industries challenges and opportunities, but none more fundamental than in healthcare and medical practice.

By Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA - We stand so close together, but we are so far apart, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29016761

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2017 — The U.S. is facing a new demographic reality.

In 2015, millennials numbered 83.1 million, surpassing the baby boomer population as the largest generation in America. With this change, organizations across every industry have made it a top priority to understand “Generation Y” and what makes them tick.  

As generations grow up and grow old and demographic shifts occur, industries must remake themselves to adapt and survive. Some industries change by revamping their marketing and their product lines in response to market research. But for them, demographic shifts aren’t as up-close and immediate as they are in health care industry.

The change in generations will have a more immediate impact on medical professionals than on any other industry professionals. The amount and type of care demanded by their customers is fundamentally linked to the aging process itself. The service they provide—health care—is more intimate and more personal than computer or car sales.  

But the immediacy of their services hasn’t made it any easier for the medical professions to understand and engage with the millennial generation. It is one thing to understand millennials’ needs and another to understand their expectations in order to keep them satisfied and loyal to their health-care providers. 

So how can health care professionals best position their organizations to cater to millennials?

Here are three attributes of millennials that health care providers must recognize as important characteristics in order to best approach securing the loyalty of this generation.

Millennials survey the marketplace and consider their options. With the Internet at their fingertips, millennials are capable and accustomed to doing the required homework to find their best options for computers, cars and medical care. Rather than seeing a separate doctor for a second medical opinion, Millennials are much more likely to consult the web or their social networks for opinions and recommendations on where to go for medical care.  

Millennials are more active and informed consumers in the medical marketplace. Lacking their elders’ deference for authority and trust in expertise, they are more likely to look for the highest quality medical care at the most affordable price. Because they can compare prices of services offered by different organizations, they are more likely to demand an upfront estimate. With continued increases in out-of-pocket expenses, Millennials consistently request and receive more estimates than their predecessors.

Millennials view health care as more than just a trip to the doctor. As a generation raised in a more health-and-wellness and diet-obsessed environment, millennials have elevated priorities on dealing with health risks like obesity. Millennials often put greater emphasis on eating organic, non-GMO or gluten-free foods, regardless of what scientists say about these issues.

But this generation’s lifestyle doesn’t just include a healthy diet. Millennials have fully embraced athleisure styles, Fit Bit step counting, and posting pictures to social media of trips to the gym. Nearly 90 percent of millennials say that they “typically exercise an average of four hours a week but like to spend six hours” and view their personal physical health as much a part of the physical health.

What does this mean for the healthcare industry? First, it indicates a willingness to adopt and implement preventative health practices like never before. With health and well being more central aspects of the millennial lifestyle, doctors must realize that the opportunity to influence the actions of their patients is greater than ever before.

But to do that, medical professionals must be willing to readjust their patient communications in ways that leverage developing technology and treats the provider-patient relationship as an ongoing loop of communication rather than a once-a-year routine visit.

Millennials still want quality care from qualified doctors and staff. Like every other generation, millennials want the confidence of knowing that the care they pay for will meet their needs and that the professionals who are charged with caring for their health are competent and skilled.  

While the medical industry has a well-established system of accreditation, barriers and regulations to keep out those that would do harm to patients, communicating this to a new generation will be a separate challenge. Hospitals and health organizations will be better able to connect with millennials as they communicate the qualifications of staff and personnel, such as ACLS certification or other forms of training.

As these efforts are made, the chances of a better-informed general public increase, which can only be good news for the industry.

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