Napkins. Weddings. Casual dining chains. 

These are just a few of the industries millennials are “killing.” 

As a generation of digital opportunists, millennials are rejecting the status quo and blazing a new path forward in healthcare with technology. 

  • Taxis were inconvenient to orchestrate – meet Uber and Lyft. 
  • Clinical visits required long waits – meet Teladoc, DoctorOnDemand, and American Well. 
  • Restaurants required dining with strangers – meet UberEats, GrubHub, and DoorDash.

This generation is empowered with access – and information. 92 percent of millennials own a smartphone capable of delivering any insight via search engine, an app, or some other function. They’re not just curious about the world around them; millennials want deeper information about their own lives too. Nearly 24 million (one-third) of millennials use a smart health technology, and nearly half use a smartwatch. The expectation of millennials is instant access. Nearly everything – from a cat video to healthcare services – can be delivered to instantly via a smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

This paradigm of instant access is driving a dependency and reliance on technology for all information, including insight typically derived from a doctor. While 58 percent of millennials said they trust their doctors, 58 percent of millennials also indicated they turn to Google for health information and nutrition information. According to a survey “Millennial Mindset: The Worried Well,” 37 percent of millennials use online diagnosis tools to self-diagnose acute or persisting health issues. And, perhaps this is because millennials and healthcare are misaligned about what ‘health care’ should encompass. 

The most interesting shift millennials are driving is moving healthcare beyond a sick care system. Prioritizing mental health is a core component to the millennial view of ‘healthy.’ Dubbed as the “Therapy Generation” by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. millennials are prioritizing mental health –  through mindfulness, self-care, therapy, and life coaches – in an unprecedented way. And, many of these services are delivered virtually via a smartphone or web-based application. 

In general, millennials are bringing expectations for healthcare to serve their mental, physical, and emotional well-being – driving the system toward more holistic, comprehensive offerings. As Fortune stated, “to millennials, exercise and nutrition are as essential to healthcare as antibiotics are to curing infection.” And, as 30% of millennials are now parents and more than 10 million are serving as caregiver to their parent(s), they will be the driving force for healthcare decisions for more than just themselves.

While empowered with information about health and wellbeing, millennials have a weak understanding of health insurance. The payment structure for U.S. system is complex, to put it mildly. Provider networks, coinsurance, premiums, deductibles – the nuances are overwhelming. And, millennials just don’t understand. Actually, their parents just don’t understand either. 

A 2017 survey by UnitedHealthcare demonstrated that very few people understand the basics of health insurance. Only 9% of Americans possessed a basic understanding of common health insurance terms, such as ‘premium’. Yet, without this understanding, millennials nevertheless have strong expectations.

So, what do millennials want from healthcare and how can payers maximize their role?

Integrative care – Treating the ‘whole person’ is a must. Programs that prevent sickness, focus on positive health behaviors, and offer mental health services are critical for gaining millennial adoption. By leveraging the devices and apps they’re already using to track and trend their lifestyle (i.e. sleep, stress, steps, etc), deep insight can be derived from health habits and used to drive personalized recommendations for behavior change. Already, using apps like MyFitnessPal, WeightWatchers, Headspace, and others, millennials are seeking programs to fill the gaps of healthcare services. 

Instant care – whether through virtual visits or remote monitoring, millennials want technology to drive convenience, especially as that means fewer in-person clinical visits (that require lengthy waits and high copays). Providing channels for a generation that lacks primary care physicians to receive acute services instantly and digitally is a requirement going forward. Services from retail clinics, which approximately one-third of millennials prefer over acute care clinics, still fell short compared to millennial interest in telemedicine (75%). In fact, a survey with Salesforce and Harris found 60% of millennials support telehealth replacing in-person visits entirely.

Ongoing care – It’s been demonstrated that ongoing care management services – serving as a preventive or augmentative strategy to chronic condition management programs – keep people healthier and out of the hospital. Continuous care programs, especially for those with chronic conditions, will be a service millennials invest in on going forward. Given that more than 50 percent of millennials do not see a physician in a year and 93 percent do not schedule any preventive visits, continuous care services are going to become crucial to engaging millennials in the healthcare system. 

Millennials comprise 30% of the U.S. adult population. As digital opportunists, the millennial approach to the status quo has already changed the way businesses and industries operate.

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