Whether you’re a millennial and proud of it or you find these youngsters to be thoroughly frustrating, there’s one thing that’s clear—this generation is changing the way that age-old concepts of healthcare are being utilized.
To be clear, a millennial is an individual born roughly between 1980 and 1995. Different researchers will tend to move this 15 year period up or down a bit, but for the most part, anyone who’s currently in their 20’s and 30’s is considered a part of this group. It’s a group that grew up with the Windows operating system and the first 3D video games, and this passion for technology is quite apparent in the way they view their own health.
Whether it’s attitudes about doctor accessibility, recommendations, or simply the factors that most heavily influence whether they do or don’t see a physician, millennial behaviors around healthcare are far different than we’ve seen before. Let’s take a closer look and examine some of the ways that the largest generational group in the nation approaches their health.
All About Money
There’s no denying that healthcare is becoming pretty expensive in the United States, but millennials seem to take this aspect of one’s medical care to heart in an extreme way. It was recently discovered that half of all individuals in this group will avoid going to the doctor simply just to save money. Those who do end up utilizing health insurance often purchase plans that are the cheapest per month and come with very high deductibles.
In fact, a study conducted by EBRI Research noted that millennials are twice as likely to visit an urgent care facility when they’re ill or injured compared to baby boomers. While some may chalk this up to a convenience factor alone, perhaps the transparent pricing at these clinics offers a more attractive sense of predictability than many realize. Particularly for younger millennials who may have recently graduated college and are just now fully realizing the impact of how expensive adulthood can be, the costs associated with healthcare play a much larger role than it does for their parents.
Breaking The Mold
Centuries ago, it was common for people to have personal relationships with their doctors. One physician may have tended to the entire family for several generations, and these individuals were reasonably well-versed in everything from dental issues to curing a common cold. Fast forward to the 21st century, and now we have a separate specialist for nearly everything.
The role of a primary care physician, however, still remains a constant in the lives of many Americans, but not for millennials. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey interviewed 1,200 people and noted that 26% of them did not have a primary care doctor. Upon further review, it was determined that within the 18 to 29-year-old age group, almost 45% of them did not have one go-to physician.
Many point to the more transient nature of millennials and find that as people travel to other states for college and move regularly for job opportunities, the ability to maintain one primary care doctor may be pretty low on the priority list.
Convenience Is King
Remember how we mentioned that the use of urgent care clinics seems to be on the rise within the millennial population compared to baby boomers? This may not simply come down to a monetary decision, as many find that urgent care clinics are far more convenient than trying to find a physician who’s taking on new patients. The difference between being able to walk in and receive care rather than sitting on someone’s appointment book for weeks is a clear priority here.
Expanding a bit further on the idea of convenience, tech-savvy millennials are always looking for ways to optimize their interactions with others, including their doctors. Salesforce conducted a survey around the behaviors of millennials when it comes to their healthcare, and found that 74% of them stated that the ability to book appointments and pay bills online was highly important.
These expectations are getting stronger and stronger as the years go by, and physicians need to keep up with patient expectations in order to thrive. Some shocking results from a Jefferson Health study of patients under the age of 40 showed just how important technology is in the doctor-patient dynamic:
- 83% of the survey participants expect to have full access to their health data online
- 71% of individuals want their provider to offer online scheduling and cost comparison tools
- 92% of those under 40 want to have easy communication with their doctors electronically
- 65% of the group discusses health matters with others via social media
Making Your Own Decision
This last data point is quite interesting, as the way that millennials use the internet for health-related matters is different than any other generation before them. Not only do more than half of all people in this group use Facebook, Twitter, and more to gain insight around the best providers in their area and inquire about what that itchy rash might be all about, but for those who do visit a primary care physician, figuring out who to turn to is a common inquiry.
In 2015, the medical group Nuance spoke with 3,000 individuals to learn more about their healthcare habits. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 more often than not look to their friends and family for physician recommendations—70% of them in fact. Interestingly enough, only 41% of those surveyed who were 65 or older placed the same level of emphasis on what their peers had to say.
The critical feedback that’s often needed for physicians to offer the best care possible also tends to be diverted within the millennial group. Just over half of those above 65 will tell their doctor directly if they have concerns with their care, while 60% of 18 to 24-year-olds tell their friends first. Another factor to consider is just how accessible all of this information has become in recent years, as smartphones allow just about anyone to look up a plethora of information about a particular doctor or health condition before even scheduling an appointment.
Minimizing Doctor Involvement
When you think about the level of convenience, cost issues, and the input of others when it comes to making health decisions, it’s no wonder that millennials tend to exhibit an aversion to doctor loyalty. Urgent care clinics have nearly become the norm, and picking up the phone to do some research almost always supersedes visiting the physician your mom or dad has seen for decades.
Some might wonder if, in another ten or twenty years, the next generation of young individuals will even see any value in going to the doctor at all. Technology’s impact on healthcare as a whole is certainly pushing things in this direction, as experts note that more and more millennials are latching onto the idea of healthcare wearables. A whopping 63% of these individuals have even said they would be open to the idea of sharing their health data with their doctor via a device, furthering even more the idea of people taking their well-being into their own hands.
Are Millennials Happy with Their Care?
It seems that the way millennials are interacting with our healthcare system as a whole is an evolving process, one that hits some positive notes and leaves other areas of opportunity. When it comes to health insurance and prescription drug affordability, people seem to be satisfied. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care survey, millennials are at least as happy with these aspects of their care compared to baby boomers.
Yet does the fast-paced growth of urgent care clinics, healthcare smartphone apps, and wearable technology indicate a shift in the way this generation engages with physicians? Only time will tell, but if you’re a millennial, it’s important to remember a few things:
- Choose the tools that work best for you, whether it’s scheduling appointments online or using social media to gather opinions from friends and family
- Don’t be afraid to do your own research before seeing a doctor, whether it’s to identify how much you should budget for a specific procedure or whether your symptoms require immediate care or not
Remember: there’s only one you, with one body to care for—so take your personal healthcare seriously. Spend some time evaluating the way your own attitude toward healthcare affects your well-being, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to visiting the doctor.
About Slingshot Health
Slingshot Health is a health tech startup that brings top healthcare providers and patients together. Patients bid on the cost of services and healthcare providers accept bids based on availability. Slingshot Health is unique in that it is a mutual marketplace putting both patients and providers back in control. Visit us at slingshothealth.com.