HOW WILL TECHNOLOGY, MOBILITY & 5 GENERATIONS MESH?
By J.R. Thomas
Millennials are plugged into technology, they are mobile and desire variability in their lives. They also are starting to reach into the health care delivery system for themselves as well as to help care for their aging parents and grandparents. With Millennials now outnumbering Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, they are a group the health care industry must learn to embrace. It’s easy for hospital administrators and physicians to get caught up managing industry changes and caring for the growing aging population and overlook this important trend. This shift leaves many wondering how our health care system will change to meet this generation’s needs.
Millennials, more than any group, like to find goods and services easily. This trend has caused a shift in how Millennials access care. For example, to get a flu shot, they can go to the pharmacy versus waiting for a primary care doctor – if they have one. This immediacy and efficiency hits at the heart of what Millennials value by combining multiple tasks with one trip.
And yet, this generation’s desire for efficient and high-quality health care services adds pressure to an already overwhelmed health system. This pressure has been a driving force for the growth in urgent care centers, free-standing emergency rooms and retail health care with nurse practitioners inside drug stores and even big box retail. All of these growing service delivery models are also being used by the other generations, because they too have come to expect the same convenience, technology and instant access as their younger family members and co-workers. The retail health care experience is being used more and more for annual basic health care needs.
As another access point, a recent PwC study found that nearly 90 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds would engage in health activities or trust information found via social media. Like it or not, it’s critical to embrace social media as one of the most important communications tools to reach this generation. Many hospitals and medical practices are building a social media presence, and some are adding programs to help Millennials maintain good habits with annual checkup reminders via text message, online prescription refill requests and helping them use hand-held devices to monitor diet and health indicators like blood pressure and BMI. These programs will continue to make access easier and promote loyalty.
Caring for Aging Parents
In the near future, many Millennials will face America’s health care system in a non-traditional and complex manner with the care of their aging parents. Baby boomers have already learned that the complexity, changes and turmoil create large health care-related financial and access burdens. How will Millennials manage these changes when their parents need a level of care they haven’t experienced themselves? This intersection of Millennials’ mobility, technology and variability will become very difficult and frustrating for this generation as they are required to engage in the health care system on behalf of their parents. These parents have had a primary care practitioner for decades and they have a relationship with the pharmacy rather than using mail order for prescriptions – and many refuse to use generic drugs. The current U.S. health care delivery system will only add to families’ challenges when these worlds collide.
The Effects of Time
Over time, what level of impact will Millennials have on health care as their needs go beyond an annual physical exam or flu shot to more intense scenarios that demand an ongoing relationship with their care provider team? Even with a generation that seems to prefer a conversation via text, a new study by Weber Shandwick and IPR Research finds that face-to-face relationships are equally as important to Millennials as their social media reputations at work. This trend likely will spill into other parts of their lives.
The health care industry’s focus on Millennials is warranted and interesting as this demographic begins to impact how the U.S. health care system delivers care. However, Millennials will be forced to interact in the current health care system in caring for their aging parents before the industry is entirely ready. If the U.S. health care industry acts now, the delivery system will be able to meet this growing population’s demands for a retail- based, tech-savvy delivery system that is portable and convenient for them today and in the future.
J.R. Thomas is CEO of Dallas-based MedSynergies, a company helping hospitals and large medical practices operate more efficiently. He’s continuously dedicated to programs that help countless people improve their lives. http://www.medsynergies.com