Why Millennial and Generation Z Disdain for Healthcare is Good for the Industry

There’s no getting around it. Millennials and Generation Z—those born 1981-1996 and 1997 onward, respectively—are not happy with the current healthcare situation. They don’t like much about it at all.

Many don’t have primary care providers (PCP), though they are somewhat interested in getting one if the doctor meets their requirements, and find fault with everything from treatment effectiveness to high costs to a lack of convenient appointment times.

This is a problem for the healthcare industry and everyone who has a part in it because sometime this year Millennials likely will become the largest generation in the U.S.; and they don’t like what they see happening in the healthcare industry. And that’s an issue because they will number approximately 73 million as other generations decrease in size. Worldwide the numbers are even graver as Generation Z will surpass Millennials in population size in 2019, 2.47 billion to 2.43 billion, respectively.

The challenge for the healthcare industry is change. Millennials and Generation Z have entirely new and different expectations of the healthcare system than any other that’s come before. And the healthcare system is firmly entrenched in the past when comes to many parts of patient care, outreach and engagement. Gone are the days of “Doctor knows best.”

Change is always difficult and it seems even more problematic in the healthcare industry where adoption of new technologies often is slow. Today, however, digital technologies—smartphone apps, artificial intelligence, online physician review sites—are impacting every facet of the doctor/patient relationship.

“Younger consumers—Gen Z and millennials—are the most dissatisfied with the quality of traditional healthcare services compared to their parents. As these younger generations age and have greater healthcare needs, they will increasingly look for series to satisfy their expectations for effectiveness, convenience, efficiency and transparency,” explains a recent Accenture report.

Between these up-and-coming groups flexing their collective muscle and rise of emerging digital technologies, the necessity for change in healthcare won’t end anytime soon.

So What Do They Want?

Research has established Millennials and Generation Z are less than thrilled with how quickly medical practices respond to questions after an appointment, inefficient operations and cost transparency. So what is it they do want? Obviously improvement in these areas, but there’s more.

The journal American Health & Drug Benefits looked at healthcare trends for 2018, which remain relevant today when it comes to these generations, and what they want and expect from the healthcare experience: “As patients, millennials will influence the future of healthcare in new ways, as their use of online resources and telehealth continues to grow.”

What do they want? At least three things:

Email. It’s been around since 1971 when the first message was sent and just try getting away from it today in your work or home life. You can’t. But if you want to send an email to your doctor, you’re generally out of luck because only 15 percent of all patients can email a doctor, according to the Council of Accountable Physician Practices. And a scant 18 percent of Millennials have the ability to use email to get medical records or lab results information.

Online. We’re talking about Digital Natives who are used to and are growing up doing everything online. So it should come as no surprise that they also want to interact with their healthcare provider online. Seventy-six percent of Millennials and Generation Z want to anything having to do with appointments available online and also say having this ability influences their choice of a provider. Many of these users want online access to their medical records and any digital technology that offers this kind of access must be mobile friendly, as well.

Text. With 6.5 trillion texts sent every year, it seems reasonable that a few of those missives might come from healthcare providers. Unfortunately, only 9 percent of all patients receive any type of notification from their doctor via text, although 12 percent of those 18-34 years report they do have access to text appointment reminders. Nevertheless, 44 percent of those 18-34 want, but don’t have, text appointment reminders, according to the report.

How Healthcare Can Learn from Millennials, GenZ

Email, online accessibility and texting are old school digital technologies. Yet these could be ground-breaking for healthcare. As Dr. Davis Liu writes, “Something as basic as emailing a doctor, is something most Americans cannot do, yet school-aged children routinely email their teachers and classmates as part of their education.”
The challenges with Millennials and Generation Z are coming at a particularly bad time for PCPs. These generations are generally satisfied not having a PCP and opt instead for convenience, a speedy transaction and low cost by using retail clinics or urgent care centers to receive care. Thirty-four percent and 25 percent of millennials use retail clinics and urgent care clinics, respectively, far more often than Baby Boomers or seniors.
More Millennials and Generation Z members are foregoing PCPs altogether. Depending on the source, 33 percent to 45 percent of Millennials have no PCP.

As generational numbers shift, the desires of Millennials and Generation Z will become even more important to the healthcare industry at-large and PCPs specifically. The big question is: Will either have done enough work in advance to keep these customers? 

So how is all of this news good for the healthcare industry?

It’s promising because the technology issues that have dogged healthcare for years have reached critical mass. The healthcare industry and its stakeholders must act not a few months or years from now, but today. The digital technologies most patients—from Baby Boomers to Generation Z—want are available and ready for implementation. It’s just a matter of adopting the new digital communication, information and engagement methods. This can be achieved by tapping into the benefits of artificial intelligence and other digital technologies and applying them to the business, operations and systems of healthcare.
 
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