How Generational Differences Are Defining Healthcare – Part 1: Millennials

The healthcare industry is at a crossroads. Administrative work, a growing elderly population and a shortage of physicians are just a few factors that contribute to the burden on healthcare providers.

But, as the number of older Americans continues to climb driving a larger group of retirees in need of healthcare services, they are being replaced in the workforce by younger generations. The Millennial generation is now the single largest group in the U.S. workforce, signifying a growing dominance of digitally driven consumers and healthcare users – and likely proponents of connected health services.

Connected health has been steadily emerging as an alternative care model, but prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, its growth was slower than many may have anticipated. But, since March 2020, healthcare providers and patients alike have leaned on connected health to enable care continuity. The question now is what will happen going forward, and generational traits could be a key to the future of connected health. Millennials, in particular, exhibit several tendencies that lend themselves well to bringing connected health more in line with traditional care.

Tech Savvy Digital Natives

It’s logical to think younger generations – digital natives – are more accepting of new digital healthcare models. They are generally quick to adopt new technologies, having grown up in a mobile- and app-centric world. Generally speaking, that is the case, in fact: Younger patients are more likely to prefer virtual care with their doctors over traditional models, a preference that shifts away from virtual with each older generation.

      • 41% of Gen Z patients prefer virtual care
      • 33% of Millennials
      • 22% of Gen Xers
      • 9% of Baby Boomers
      • 7% of the Silent Generation

Connected Health as a Competitive Differentiator

Digital health tools are a bigger factor for Millennials than other generations when choosing healthcare providers. Along with Gen Z and Gen X, these three generations – digital natives and digital immigrants – are much more likely to make healthcare choices based on availability of connected health tools and services than Baby Boomer or the Silent Generation. That’s not surprising, given Gen Z and Millennials are much less satisfied with the convenience of healthcare channels and locations than patient groups.

Younger generations are also more likely to try virtual care from providers outside their normal healthcare ecosystems, such as tech companies and retail brands. That means competition for patients is likely to increase as non-traditional providers enter the healthcare market, which should make connected health a priority for healthcare providers as they seek to create long-lasting relationships with patients.

Physician Willingness to Use Digital Tools

Similar differences apply to physicians, themselves, as Millennial and Gen X doctors have a greater willingness to engage in video visits and have less uncertainty about them than their older counterparts (Gen Z is largely not represented yet among the physician population). The surge in usage during the pandemic has, in fact, pushed telehealth to the top of the list of desired technologies: 61% ranking it as the technology with the most potential to improve their work experiences (up 39% from prior to the pandemic).

Work-Life Balance

Millennials consider a good work-life balance critical to their overall well-being and, more than any other generation, value scheduling flexibility over pay. In fact, 58% would take lower pay in return for greater flexibility. In addition to increasing workflow efficiency for physicians, connected health can add flexibility to work hours and locations by enabling physicians to see patients and access patient information remotely, helping create better work-life balance.

It’s not at all surprising to see Millennials and their even younger counterparts have a greater affinity towards advanced technologies. They have grown up using mobile apps on smartphones and tablets, so extending those tools to their healthcare delivery capabilities is a logical progression. The confluence of existing efficiency challenges, a technologically advanced workforce, the potential for connected health to create a better healthcare delivery system, and the momentum connected health has gained in the past year, can help create a new, generationally driven model for healthcare.

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