The millennial impact on healthcare tech: Convenience rules

doctor ipad technology

Millennials’ unique exposure to technology provides them new and different views on health than previous generations. Millennials may have the greatest interest in digital health initiatives, which align with the current advances in telehealth, the use of telecommunications technologies supporting long-distance health care. With telehealth, physicians can diagnose and prescribe necessary medicines without physically having to see a patient. Harris Poll (Harris Interactive, Inc.) found 74 percent of millennials are interested in utilizing telehealth, and 63 percent believe that they would be provided a better diagnosis using this technology.

Healthcare organizations are engaging more millennials by improving means of virtual communication. For example, installing HD webcams and providing personalized messaging to patients. By 2020, telehealth is predicted to double among consumers, and video consultants will reach 27 million.

The rising popularity of telehealth coincides with findings from a PNC (PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.) survey that cite millennials are less likely to interact with their primary care physicians than baby boomers due to a lack of convenience. Millennials are twice as likely to visit a retail clinic or acute care facility because it is easier seeing a doctor on a lunch break than making an appointment. Clearly, millennials are all about the route with the least friction.

The social mobile impact

Since about 85 percent of millennials own smartphones, healthcare organizations are catering to this group to increase their healthcare engagement. Social media is also of increasing importance in the healthcare world. Previously, the healthcare industry was ultra cautious with social media due to patient privacy regulations related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). However, with increased patient popularity and growing reliance by young people on social communications, social media has become a marketing necessity. As the role of social media in healthcare continues to evolve, there are promises for it to empower patients, educate the public, and connect individuals.

For example, millennials will be more likely to use social media and interact with peers to determine the credibility of a physician and the reliability of the information they provide. Social media platforms naturally create a platform for instant, raw reviews, eliminating communication barriers. With this new type of word-of-mouth marketing, consumers are empowered to search and find the information they need regarding a physician, facility, or treatment plan, and 76 percent of millennials value online reviews from other patients when making decisions regarding physicians and health.

In fact, surveys from Salesforce and Harris Poll found 71 percent of millennials would prefer their healthcare providers use mobile apps to set appointments, share health data, and manage medicine. For example, Zocdoc, Inc. allows healthcare organizations to engage and communicate with patients who are less inclined to see their physicians in person.

University of Nevada Department of Family Medicine chair Daniel Spogen, is already seeing a difference in doctors’ relationships with patients. Older generations, for example, develop a personal relationship with their doctor, who they expect to be there for them 24/7 in case of an emergency. “My older patients will say, ‘Dr. Spogen is my doctor.’ I don’t get that same kind of ownership as much with my younger patients,” he explained.

A 2015 report by Salesforce found that almost half of people age 18 to 34 do not have a personal relationship with their physician. Forty percent of respondents surveyed also believe that their doctor would not recognize them if they crossed paths while walking down the street. Perhaps this is because millennials are generally healthier so they do not need to see a physician as frequently. The most pressing health issues for millennials involve car accidents, injuries, and pregnancy, not chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, according to Dr. Ron Rowes, chief medical officer of Prominence Health Plan. Another reason could be millennials are not as tied to the idea of having just one specific doctor. Procedures like standard checkups and consultations do not require a doctor at all, so millennials may seek a nurse practitioner or physician assistant instead.

This type of modern communication is a huge change since older generations such as baby boomers traditionally valued person-to-person communication and cultivating relationships with their family doctor. Growing up with video games, Google and iPhones, millennials’ perspectives are strongly shaped by their access to technology. Dr. Rowes commented:

“[Millennials are] used to reaching out when they need something, getting instant gratification, moving on and only coming back when they have the need again … If you look at the demands of millennials on our society as consumers, they are a group that uses services such as Amazon and the Internet who aren’t really used to person-to-person service per se.”

Such behavior is making its way into the healthcare world and is expected to re-shape patient care as millennials continue to age.

As more millennials interact with the healthcare system, the industry will find itself facing an advanced and demanding population that will be unlike previous generations. Director of insurance coverage for the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Kathy Hempstead said, “I think millennials are going to give the healthcare industry more impetus to really improve the customer service part of what they do.” Millennial Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell summed it up, saying: “My generation is all about convenience and preventive health, we don’t want to see the doctor in person, which is one reason why we want to stay healthy.”

Millennials are leading health-tech trends

They do their homework. With the increasing costs of healthcare and the rising number of self-help resources, and The Affordable Care Act, this generation is able to take control of their own healthcare. They use the internet, searching online to find any information they can before seeing a doctor in person. Millennials are twice as likely than previous generations to act on health advice they may find on the internet, which includes social media. Forty-one percent of millennials, concerned with finances are starting to request estimates before actively pursuing medical treatment, this number is compared with 21 percent of baby boomers and only 18 percent of senior citizens.

People of all ages use technology to manage their health, but millennials are at the top of this list, having grown up with the technology, they are the ones forming new tech habits. Healthcare brands that want to be preferred by millennials have to think of patients as similar to retail consumers. Care delivery models can be molded to fit the millennial lifestyle and communication habits. This means emphasizing convenience and transparency, embracing the technology, and finding different ways to sell value.

As for the healthcare forums and conversations boards emerging all over the internet, healthcare brands should recognize and participate to help build trust and encourage ongoing brand utilization.

photo credit: On call 24/7 via photopin (license)