While the attitudes, preferences, and needs of the Millennial generation have definitely been high on the minds of the business sector in recent years, they probably haven’t registered too high up the list of priorities for the healthcare industry. In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, that’s something that needs to change. The oldest Millennials are now having their first children, and, as a consequence, are becoming more aware of health issues and more frequent users of health services. This means big changes are on the horizon for healthcare professionals, administrators and, in particular for healthcare industry CIOs who will need to adapt to meet the changing habits of the people they serve.
Why Millennials are Driving Change
If you’ve raised your own kids, you’ll remember that when they’re little, they are non-stop sick. As such, the cohort of young millennial parents are much more likely to come into contact with health services, and to be seeking health related information. That’s a trend that will only be on the increase as their parents move into their later years and find themselves with greater healthcare needs. Why is that important? Study after study has revealed how the millennial generation, generally defined as those born between 1977 and 1993, have grown up in a digital world that has shaped the way they think and act in all aspects of their lives. Millennials are reshaping retail consumerism, so why would the consumption of health services be any different?
Surrounded by rapidly evolving technology from the word go, millennials are tech savvy and focused on using the Internet—and particularly their mobile devices—to simplify their lives, find information, and engage with one another on social networks. They largely rely on—or hope to rely on— their mobile devices in order to communicate with doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers, with their preferences leaning towards texting over face-to-face interactions. This group is also a big consumer of video, not just for entertainment, but also as a means of finding information. This all means they are looking for solutions that health care providers may not yet be in a position to provide. Therein lays the challenge that healthcare CIOs face in the digital age.
The Scale of the Challenge
Global consultancy Communispace reports that, “As political, financial, and technological forces combine to remake the healthcare landscape, Millennials are highly dissatisfied with the current state of healthcare in America. As a result, today’s young adults have developed alternative approaches to managing their health and wellness.” Here’s a closer look.
Healthcare and health insurance. More than a third of the millennials surveyed said that they rate U.S. healthcare as “poor” or “terrible,” with almost half laying the blame straight at the door of government. More than a quarter (26 percent) blame health insurance companies for the state of healthcare today.
Alternative treatments. Just over half (55 percent) of millennials said they would go to a doctor right away if they discovered a lump on their neck, compared to almost three-quarters (73 percent) of non-millennials. Even those who would end up going to the doctor would be more likely than those in the non-millennial group to self-diagnose and try treatment at home before doing so.
Work/life balance and breaks from technology. Less than half of millennials said they consider traditional check-ups, screenings, vaccinations, self-examinations, and health insurance as being a part of maintaining their health and wellness. A higher proportion of respondents considered a healthy work/life balance as being of more value. In fact work/life balance ranked higher than all the other above considerations. And, interestingly enough, a higher proportion of millennials than non-millennials said that unplugging from the technology was important to their overall health and wellbeing. Perhaps they’re finally wising up to the toll being constantly connected can take on one’s wellbeing.
This infographic from Communispace illustrates some of the main findings from the report.
Clearly, many of today’s young adults are seeking alternatives to more traditional approaches to their health.
Creating Healthcare for the Millennial Generation
So from a CIO standpoint what does all of this mean, and how should CIOs go about creating healthcare services millennial users will want to engage with? Many hospitals and healthcare providers are already creating digital records and using text messaging and email to confirm appointments, check in on patients, provide care instructions, and/or other step-by-step directions a parent might need when caring for a child. But to fully engage they need to go further.
Cross platform access. Digital records need to be integrated across health services and information has to be provided in a format available across multiple platforms and devices.
Information all the time, anywhere. Millennials have grown used to finding information when and where they want it. Healthcare is no longer confined to the hospital and physicians’ offices and IT services need to reflect that.
Wearable tech and healthcare apps. Millennials are more likely to use healthcare apps and health tracking devices. No surprisingly, as millennials have grown up “sharing” their lives online, more than a quarter of those surveyed said they were willing and eager to share health data with employers, insurers, providers, and brands, providing they see clear value in return. They also expressed fewer concerns about privacy and security concerns about doing so. Health IT systems need to be able to tap into this data source.
CIOs and their healthcare IT teams clearly need to react by having systems in place to meet the needs of this new breed of healthcare user. Allowing quick and easy access to services and information, as well as the ability to interact with the their own data, will be key to gaining the trust and patronage of the millennial generation.
Corey Schwartz, managing director of Communispace Health sums this up neatly, “Millennials are not only the healthcare consumers of the future, but—as many continue to or begin caring for their aging parents—the present as well. For brands seeking their business in traditional health sectors and beyond, it is critical to work with, not against, their unique set of healthcare values by embracing institutional aversion and self-reliance, providing tools for empowerment and connection, and expanding your own notions of health and wellness.”
You can find out more about “Health Without Borders: How Millennials are Reshaping Health and Wellness,” and some analysis of the results, by viewing this video presentation from report author Katrina Lerman.
The Communispace study would seem to suggest there is much work to be done by the healthcare industry in order to integrate systems and services with the needs of the millennial generation. That presents healthcare providers with a great opportunity, but one that will only work if the carrot is used—and not the stick. What do you think the priorities for CIOs and IT teams should be to meet that challenge? As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.
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A version of this was first posted on Converge.