Five ways Millennials are changing the healthcare industry

The Millennial generation is a force to be reckoned with. We all know that the Baby Boomer generation changed how the world worked, and Millennials are doing likewise. One area they are starting to change is healthcare.

There are 83.1 million Millennials in the United States today, those born between 1982 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's nearly 8 million more souls than the 75.4 million Baby Boomers alive today. Millennials represent a quarter of the total U.S. population, and they will account for more than $1.4 trillion in spending per year by 2020.

Just like the Baby Boom generation before it, this cohort of young people carries influence. In the healthcare space, they are prompting greater emphasis on technology, faster delivery of care, telemedicine adoption, a fee-for-outcome model, and a shift toward consumer-oriented service.

1. Increased Demand for Technical Innovation

Unlike generations before it, Millennials are 100 percent digital native. They grew up on the Internet and with mobile phone technology, and the vast majority of Millennials take digital technology as a fact of life. They expect others will similarly rely on digital technology—their doctors included.

Millennials are still light users or healthcare because this age group is still young and healthy, by and large. But as they use healthcare facilities more, they're starting to demand technically-savvy physicians that know and take advantage of the latest tech for better service.

These tech solutions include online health portals, easy self-serve options, online appointment scheduling, electronic medical record review, online payment options, and digital health services nobody has yet envisioned.

2. Instant Care

Time is money, and the Millennials generation knows this better than most because many of them work freelance in the gig economy. They also inhabit a work world where telecommuting is common and the work day never fully ends, putting stress on the importance of each minute of each day. For Millennials, therefore, healthcare should happen quickly and efficiently. There's no room for long wait times and slow turnaround.

A PNC Healthcare study last year found that Millennials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to prefer retail clinics and acute care facilities for speed and efficient healthcare delivery.

Healthcare facilities need fast turnaround if they are going to meet the expectations of the Millennials generation. One good example of this in practice is the Cleveland Clinic, which U.S. News & World Report recently rated as the second best hospital in the country. The Cleveland Clinic not only enables appointment scheduling by email, it also offers same-day appointments. They serve roughly a million same-day appointments per year, a decidedly Millennial-friendly metric.

3. Telemedicine Adoption

Better than scheduling a doctor and seeing him in the same day is not seeing him at all. Millennials love telemedicine since they regularly use video chat elsewhere in their lives for both social and professional needs.

A study by Salesforce.com last year found that roughly 60 percent of Millennials showed interest in telemedicine. This could be part of the reason why BCC Research estimates the market for remote monitoring and telemedicine will reach $27.3 billion by the end of this year, twice its size as recently as 2011.

Millennials won't take poorly-implemented telemedicine solutions, however.

"Millennials won't accept choppy or disjointed video from their healthcare provider like they do with Skype," noted Tony Zhao in a recent blog post, CEO of real-time communications provider, Agora.io. "They expect reliability from any service where they're paying significant money."

4. Consumer-Oriented Healthcare

The lines between home and business have blurred. Millennials use their smartphones at the office, they work from home, they use the same cloud apps both for personal and professional ends. This has led to the consumerization of corporate IT, among other things, and it also is starting to lead to the consumerization of healthcare.

More than 75 percent of Millennials look at online reviews before selecting a physician, according to HIT Consulting. Roughly half also use online review sites such as Yelp and HealthGrades as a way to learn more about their provider, PNC Healthcare also has found.

Word of mouth also is important for healthcare when it comes to Millennials, the same as in the consumer products space. Millennials listen to their peers when selecting a doctor, and they are comfortable sharing their medical information in online forums, according to a study by Communispace Health.

5. Fee-for-Outcome Healthcare

The cost of healthcare has grown faster than inflation during the lifetime of Millennials. So unsurprisingly, they are looking for other models of payment and ways to make sure there is greater value for service.

One change is that Millennials are strong on estimates up front, not after care has been delivered. Roughly 41 percent of Millennials request a cost estimate before undergoing treatment, according to PNC. Contrast this with the 18 percent of seniors and the 21 percent of Baby Boomers who ask for an estimate before service.

Millennials also want greater accountability from their healthcare providers, which is why many in their generation are asking for payment models that reward quality of care instead of quantity. Some of the payment models pushed by Millennials include shared savings, bundled payment and partial capitation, among others.

The Baby Boom generation changed the world, but the Millennials also are changing how things are done. Healthcare is not exempted from this trend. It is early days for Millennials when it comes to healthcare. But as they start using medical facilities more, these five trends will grow in importance.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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