How Millennials Are Driving Adoption and Innovation in Virtual Care

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By Lee Horner

Millennials will soon be recognized as the nation’s largest living adult generation, according to population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2019, millennials are expected to surpass baby boomers in numbers as their population expands to 73 million while boomers decline to 72 million.

The size of their population and their inherent fondness for technology is changing the landscape of healthcare delivery. Healthcare organizations recognize that offering virtual care to this segment will help attract and retain this population as both patients and clinical professionals. This tech-savvy generation is driving virtual care adoption and innovation, leading to better quality, more accessible, and lower-cost care. 

Convenient: Millennials gravitate towards convenient methods for communicating and transacting. They expect to use the same techniques – and devices – to take care of their physical, emotional, and even financial health. It is not surprising that millennials lead other segments in their adoption and use of technology. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults, ninety-two percent of millennials own smartphones versus 67 percent of baby boomers.

This analysis also indicated that almost all millennials (97 percent) state that they use the internet and over a quarter of millennials (28 percent) own a smartphone without subscribing to broadband service at home. Millennials are accessing care on their terms and influencing how healthcare organizations are bringing the hospital to the home and care to the consumer – or, at least, to a smartphone on-hand. 

Connected: This population segment is referred to as the “C” generation, meaning the “connected” generation. As champions of social media, millennials connect regularly with each other, building a sense of trust amongst this generation that may trump respect for long-standing institutions and brands. According to Communispace, 27 percent of millennials will self-treat at home without visiting a doctor’s office and nearly half research symptoms and treatments online before consulting a doctor. When faced with health concerns and questions, millennials turn to each other and “Dr. Google” to find the answers – and healthcare professionals – they need. In a study conducted by GreyHealth Group and Kantar Health, only 58 percent of millennials said they trust their doctors, compared to 73 percent of all other generations. Similar to searching out a new restaurant or hotel, millennials read online reviews of providers and hospitals in order to make informed decisions when choosing a provider. Additionally, during the course of treatment, millennials expect to interact with their care providers similar to how they communicate with their peers. A recent Harris Poll survey from the American Osteopathic Association indicated that 54 percent of this population segment are or would like to be friends with or follow their healthcare providers on social media. The survey also found nearly two-thirds of millennials felt it appropriate to use social media or direct messaging to contact their physician(s) about a health issue. Healthcare organizations will need to deploy virtual care platforms that facilitate text, SMS, and email communications – in addition to video chat – between providers and millennial patients throughout the continuum of care. These organizations also need to ensure that their social media strategy nurtures, tracks, and publishes online reviews in order to be part of the millennial’s consideration set for care options.

Coordinated: Millennials seek healthcare experiences which are seamless and well-coordinated across providers, institutions, and health plans. The EHR is core to the coordination of data; millennials expect to “own” their personal health records by having them always at their fingertips and integrated with their health/well-being trackers. Because millennials want to be in the driver’s seat managing their healthcare (from appointment scheduling to data sharing), they will also find healthcare organizations that empower them to lead the coordination of their care more attractive. Healthcare organizations’ IT departments will need to factor in millennials’ expectations for easy access to their healthcare data and appointment calendars. Technology takes the coordination to the next level as millennials expect to use video to communicate with various care providers (and even the billing department) in order to receive aligned yet affordable care.

In summary, millennials are used to relying on technology to make smarter choices in all aspects of their personal and professional lives. Healthcare organizations that enable millennials to access care on their own terms, devices, and schedules will earn their respect, trust, and loyalty. Furthermore, these organizations will attract this population segment by allowing greater flexibility in how millennial healthcare professionals “deliver” care. The healthcare industry predicts a shortage of 120,000 doctors by 2030, as well as a deficit of 446,000 home health workers and 95,000 nursing assistants by 2025. Virtual care technology can address this gap by enabling millennial providers, care managers, and visiting nurses the ability to treat more patients virtually. With virtual care platforms, healthcare organizations can meet millennials’ wants and needs for their own care and careers.

Lee Horner is CEO of Synzi.

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