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. 

Today, most millennials are in their 30s. Millennials comprise the largest generation currently in the U.S. workforce. Many have mortgages, children, commercial health plans, life insurance, and loans. And, as a whole, millennials make up nearly 1/4th of the total national healthcare spending.

Not surprising for the generation that took us from looking up data in case of encyclopedias to using search engines on computers, the expectation of millennials is simple: instant, digital access. And, thanks to fast advancements in technology, ‘instant, digital access’ is possible.

  • Taxis were inconvenient to coordinate – meet Uber and Lyft.
  • Clinical visits required long, in-clinic waits – meet Teladoc, Doctor On Demand, and Amwell.
  • Restaurant dining required leaving your home – meet UberEats, GrubHub, and DoorDash.

92% of millennials own a smartphone. Tens of millions use a smartwatch. And, nearly everything – from a cat video to a college degree – can be acquired using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

This paradigm of instant access is driving a dependency on and opportunity with technology to help us access information at unprecedented rates. This includes insight typically delivered via a doctor: sickness, symptoms, remedies, etc. While 58 percent of millennials said they trust their doctors, 58 percent of millennials also indicated they turn to search engines for health 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 ‘instant, digital access’ to healthcare. They want health services that serve their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Right now, they’re turning to ‘disruptors’ that exist outside the traditional system – like Noom and WW, Headspace and Talkspace, heydoctor and Heal, and CVS and Walgreens clinics – to access these services. It’s unsurprising then that millennials are increasingly abandoning primary care services, choosing digital alternatives. Nearly 35% of millennials reporting not having a PCP.

As Fortune stated, “to millennials, exercise and nutrition are as essential to healthcare as antibiotics are to curing infection.” A Blue Cross Blue Shield Association report indicated that “millennials are significantly more likely than their baby boomer counterparts to believe that their mental health impacts their physical health, with 80% of millennials saying so compared to 62% of baby boomers.”

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. 

30% of millennials are now parents and more than 10 million are serving as primary caregiver to their parent(s). They will be the driving force for healthcare decisions for more than just themselves. As digital opportunists, the millennial approach to the status quo has already changed the way businesses and industries operate.

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