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Healthcare for Millennials

7 min read • June 04, 2019
30 sec brief

Just like millennials are looking at other high spending areas differently than past generations, healthcare is no different. Here are some insights into what they value in healthcare today.

The millennials are a generation known for shaking things up. By examining the status quo and challenging it, they are making changes to every industry. Healthcare included.

Someone asked the wise Dalai Lama, what surprised him most about humanity. He replied, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Even in 2019, this is pretty accurate.  

Younger people, especially millennials, value the traditional healthcare system less than their parents and grandparents according to Accenture’s 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey.   

When they looked closer at the healthcare for millennials data, Accenture discovered that younger people are pretty “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with traditional health care. They want more “effectiveness, convenience, efficiency, and transparency.”

Accenture believes the healthcare industry will see significant changes in the years to come. Millennials are leading the way. They are projected to become the largest generation by 2019, and hold the power to influence the future of healthcare.

Who are Millennials?

Defining a generation is never an exact science. We’ll go with the Pew Research Center definition of Millennials, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019).

Millennials came of age as the world began to heavily embrace technology. The oldest remember having to call friends on phones attached to walls to hang out. They also remember everyone getting cell phones and wanting to be part of the cool crowd.

Some millennials were beginning college when the world-changing events of 9/11 happened. Many were at adulthoods doorstep when the 2008 recession hit.

Millennials were hit hard by the recession. Many endured years of fruitless job searches after college and maxed out credit cards to stay afloat. For many entering college, the money their parents may have helped them with was gone as many parents had lost their jobs during the recession. The youngest millennials were aware of the hardships the adults faced.   

Some adult millennials still have fears and insecurities keeping them from making big life changes. Many have delayed purchasing real estate and cut back on discretionary spending. They tend to take a very efficient approach to their finances.

As millennials have approached all categories of high spending differently than past generations, the way they handle healthcare is no different.  

Healthcare for millennials  

Millennials entered adulthood on a bit of a slippery slope. They demand information to make informed decisions in every aspect of their lives. In addition, they have different expectations than previous generations and are shaping the way we experience healthcare.  

Millennials already have medical debt

Young adults incur medical collections debt at a higher rate than older age groups, as shown by this Health Affairs study.

Data from the 2016 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Credit Panel, shows that the frequency of medical debt in collections peaked at 11.3 percent, for people age 27, and stayed consistent until their mid-40s, even though medical spending is generally low for those in their 20s. The median amount peaked at age 27 with $684 in collections. To compare, people in their 60s had higher rates of medical spending but fewer medical collections.

But why do they already have so much medical debt? Here are a few reasons millennials have this financial burden.

  • They don’t earn as much: Those aged 25 to 34 had a median income of $36,664 in 2017, according to the Census Bureau’s current population survey.
  • Many don’t have insurance: Just shy of 20% of millennials in their late 20s and early 30s are uninsured.
  • They move around frequently: Younger people tend to relocate more often, which increases the chances of losing track of bills and having them sent to collections.

Cost transparency is demanded

Millennials stepped into adulthood right as the economy took a nosedive. The way they looked at finances changed in the blink of an eye. Those who spent several thousand dollars for education and still stare at piles of student debt realize that “adulting” is going to be harder than they’d imagined.

They demand cost transparency in all aspects of life. From wanting to know how much the delicious brownie on the dessert cart costs to what an MRI’s price tag is, they want to know what the load on their pocketbook will be.

A 2017 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald and Associates, polled over 3,500 adults with health insurance. They discovered that millennials were most likely to report researching costs online, investigating the care their insurance covered and discussing treatment costs with a doctor, compared to other generations.

This poll by PNC Healthcare found that millennials will request price estimates more than older patients. In fact, over half stated they’d delay or skip healthcare if the cost is too high.

Millennials are research savvy

Millennials remember spending hours in the school library but were also the first to have the internet at their fingertips. Knowing how to find answers with easily accessible information led millennials to scrutinize even the smallest choices.   

According to a  survey by Grayhealth and Kantar Health, only about 40% say they trust doctors as the best source of health information. They seek medical information from many places. Websites like WebMD and Drugs.com provide reliable information. They don’t just take their doctor’s word.

Millennials take time to research anything from where to eat to who to have perform a life-altering surgery. These savvy 20 – and 30 – somethings compare their options by looking at  doctor and hospital quality ratings. They depend on family, friends, blogs, and websites to help determine the best choices.

Millennials want flexible healthcare delivery options

Millennials view health as more than just a lack of disease. To them, being healthy is a combination of being physically and mentally fit. They feel that nutrition and exercise are as big a part of healthcare as medication. The EBRI study found that millennials tend to be more open to joining company wellness programs, like fitness challenges, smoking cessation, and stress management programs.  

While millennials focus a great deal on being healthy, they don’t always depend on just one doctor to keep them that way. In fact, only 67% of millennials have a primary care provider, way less than the 85% of baby boomers who do. Millennials are taking their healthcare into their own hands.

As many millennials don’t depend on one provider, they aren’t tied to one single office to seek care. Several millennials seem to agree on this fact. The 2017 CEHCS Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey shows that 30% of millennials have used a walk-in clinic (whereas only 14% of baby boomers and 18% of Gen Xers have). This PNC Healthcare study shows that 34% actually prefer receiving care at retail clinics and 25% like to be seen at Urgent Care Centers. And why not? Most urgent care centers don’t require them to make an appointment, they’re in and out in under half an hour, offer flexible schedules, and pricing is usually fairly transparent.

This doesn’t mean that urgent care centers and retail clinics are the only healthcare delivery options that will survive the millennials. It does show that private practices and hospitals would do well to look at how they can make their services meet the convenience standards millennials want.

Is there an app for that?  

Millennials are a tech-savvy generation. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of millennials own smartphones and over half own tablets. Pretty much all millennials use the internet in some capacity, and many access it by smartphone.

Their love of tech has transferred to healthcare in a big way. According to this Salesforce survey, 6 in 10 millennials support telemedicine, like video chatting, versus in-person office visits. They also utilize apps to book appointments, review health records and manage their preventative care. This study conducted at a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in New York City shows that they are much more likely to utilize patient portals than other generations.

They are connected and tell everyone about it

Millennials are also super engaged on social media platforms. 82% use Facebook and many also share on Instagram and Snapchat. They are also avid bloggers, YouTubers, and participate in online chats. They leave reviews for their favorite mattresses, restaurants, and what they thought of their latest doctor visit.

Overall, this connection is a good thing. Connecting with healthcare providers and institutions on social media allows them to speak their mind. Though, it’s not always positive. Smart doctors and healthcare institutions listen closely to social media buzz and address issues quickly. Though at times it’s negative, the community created by social media makes people feel they can make informed decisions.

There is no doubt the millennials have different expectations from healthcare than previous generations. They are a force to pay attention to. Let’s be honest, if they can enact major change on the way we view T.V. to the way we eat breakfast, you better believe they can change healthcare.

The truth is, there’s a lot that could change to improve the healthcare experience for everyone, of every generation. And though change can be scary, it often leads to amazing results. Healthcare is changing, and the millennials are leading the way.

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About the author
Vicky Warren

Vicky Warren, once a nurse, now a freelance healthcare writer and social media coach.

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