July 14, 2015

The Top 10 Ways Millennials are Shaping Healthcare

Doesn’t it seem like our generation is constantly being cast in an unfavorable light? We millennials (ages 18-29) are often identified as impatient, lacking in attention span, and overly dependent on technology in comparison to the older Baby Boom and Generation X demographics. Regardless of all the knocks against millennials (also referred to as Generation Y), one thing they must get respect for is the increasing impact they are having on our healthcare industry.

Recent statistics provided by the US Census Bureau estimate that the number of millennials in our country has grown to over 80 million. A report by Alliance Trends reveals that there are already as many millennials as baby boomers and that in a matter of two decades, Generation Y will represent the majority of our U.S population. With their increasing size, Millennials are beginning to attract more attention from the health care industry —an industry they have not been too keen on in years past.

According to a 2012 survey by ZocDoc and Harris Interactive, millennial adults were so frustrated with healthcare that more than half delayed seeking medical attention. Healthcare providers and policymakers have taken the dissatisfaction of millennials to heart and are progressively revamping the system so it will be more appealing to our generation.

Here are the top ten ways in which millennials are changing our healthcare system:


1. Greater Adoption of Electronic Services

We’re living in the Information Age! Technological improvements have given us the ability to learn or do just about anything using our mobile devices (Smartphones, tablets, etc.). Some healthcare providers are starting to pick up on this trend by offering more electronic services. By accessing their provider’s online portal; more patients are now able to schedule appointments, fill out paperwork, review medical records, explore preventative treatment options, and pay medical bills while on the go.

The transition to electronic formatting not only provides patients with easier access to their medical information but allows providers to manage their customers more efficiently. Still, a survey conducted by Xerox on the usage of electronic health records showed that 35% of those who did not use patient portals were unaware of their existence. If you are in this category, make sure to ask your physician whether such services are available to you.


2. More Immediate Care

While older folks may be content to wait several days before seeing a doctor, we are often too busy to wait that long. With all the action in our lives, it is crucial for us to get quick medical care when we need it. Our demand for immediate care is leading to more providers scheduling same-day appointments with their patients. The Cleveland Clinic, for example, already plans around one million same-day appointments every year. So if you need to see a clinical physician for a medical issue and do not have time to waste, look for a practice that offers same-day appointments.


3. More Home-Based Care

Same-day appointments are nice, but completely bypassing a trip to the doctor’s office is even better. Such is the mentality of our generation, which has voiced its approval of using telehealth options to eliminate unnecessary trips to the doctor. The “State of the Connected Patient” report, a Salesforce.com report that focused on patients’ technology requests for the future, claimed that 60% of millennials expressed interested in video chatting with their physicians from home. Of those surveyed, 63 percent also showed interest in using wearable devices to provide health data to their doctors. The thinking is that if doctors can monitor our health using such technology, they will not need to evaluate us in person.

The healthcare industry appears to be embracing home-based care as much as us. According to a Health Affairs blog, marketing firm BCC Research predicts that the market for remote monitoring and telemedicine applications will reach $27.3 billion in 2016, which is more than double what it was in 2011. Despite their anticipated boom, new telemedicine applications are not the only option for eradicating those time-consuming visits to the doctor…


4. Greater Employment of Health/Wellness Coaches

For the most part, our generation is not plagued by terminal diseases, but by very treatable health issues like stress, obesity, and alcohol abuse. In one of their blogs, dieticians Jennifer K. Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic propose that one-third of those in the Millennial age range are either obese or overweight. Further, binge drinking and high-stress levels are serious threats to the health of many college students. So what is the best solution for people who face these kinds of problems and want to avoid regular checkups with the doctor?

You can hire a health/wellness coach. They function like personal trainers in that they motivate, enable, and challenge their clients to maintain healthier lifestyles. By working alongside general physicians, health coaches can act as middlemen between patients and doctors, helping the patients to treat their issues with fewer visits to a physician. Due to their effectiveness in treating millennial-related health problems, health coaches should continue to find employment in the healthcare industry.


5. Greater Emphasis on Patient-Centered Care

The “State of the Connected Patient” report (referenced previously) argues that millennials have a limited, almost non-existent relationship with their primary care physicians. 40% of those surveyed said their primary care doctor would not recognize them walking down the street.

To mend the severed relationships between millennials and their doctors, there is a nationwide effort to make healthcare more patient-based. This means that doctors are being pushed to act less like their patients’ bosses (simply telling them what to do), so they can instead get to know them on a personal level. In the future, the doctor’s job will be less geared toward directing and more geared toward learning, as well as informing. The hope is that millennials who feel more cared about by their physicians will have greater incentive to maintain their health.


6. Movement Toward a Fee-for-Outcome Payment Model

Another identifier of millennials is their desire to save money. According to an article published by The Atlantic, national healthcare spending will constitute 19.8% of our annual GDP in 2020, which is over 2 percentage points higher than it was in 2010. Large spending equates to significant healthcare costs, which does not resonate well with us cheapskates.

To get more millennials on board with healthcare, the industry is moving toward a payment model that rewards for quality of care rather than quantity. Some real life examples of this payment model are shared savings, bundled payment, and partial capitation. These systems are already being implemented to limit excessive spending by healthcare providers and lower the costs shouldered by consumers.


7. Growth in Private Exchanges

Exchanges act as online marketplaces (e.g. https://www.healthcare.gov/) through which people can research and purchase health insurance policies. Unlike public exchanges, which are offered by the government, private exchanges are created by private sector companies. They are commonly used by employers who want to provide health benefits to their employees without incurring unreasonable costs.

With millennials entering the workforce, many will be directed to these private exchange sites by their employers. The result, as stated by an article published in CIO magazine, is that those using private exchanges will outnumber those using public exchanges by 2017.


8. Implementation of the Health Insurance Mandate

The individual mandate imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gives many people the option of purchasing health insurance or paying a fine. The success of the Affordable Care Act hinges on this health insurance mandate because the mandate provides an incentive for millennials who would not normally buy health insurance to enroll.

Data provided by Gallup.Com reveals that as of 2013, nearly 24% of people in the Millennial age range were still uninsured. If relatively healthy people like us do not purchase health insurance, we do not subsidize healthcare for the older, sicker members of the population and the entire system collapses. Therefore, we can only expect the penalty for not buying insurance to steepen in the future.


9. Dependent-Coverage Provision of the Affordable Care Act Being Taken Advantage of

This is the provision of the ACA that allows people under age 26 (a large portion of the Millennial population) to remain on their parents’ insurance. It was originally instituted as a “lifeline” for young adults who were experiencing extreme difficulties in the onset of their professional careers. However, the tight labor market of recent years has prompted many millennials to take advantage of the ACA and remain on their parents’ insurance despite not needing to.

As the labor market improves, there is a possibility that young professionals will choose to buy their insurance coverage before they are legally forced to. Yet in the meantime, many are viewing their parents’ coverage as their best option for health insurance.


10. More Millennials Working in Healthcare

According to the sixth annual Millennial Career Survey conducted by the National Society of High School Scholars, millennials favor healthcare jobs over any other kind. The surveyors compiled a list of “Millennials’ preferred places to work” and found that 8 of the top 25 spots were held by healthcare organizations.

Referred to by Time Magazine as the “Me Me Me Generation”, millennials undoubtedly want to have a real impact in the world. The healthcare industry gives them as good an opportunity to do that as any.

About the Author
Michael Sepke

Michael Sepke is a student at the University of Chicago and content writer at Dispute.