Business Strategy

Millennials are reshaping how the health care industry does business

Millennials are reshaping how the health care industry does business

“Young people need to be asked what matters, not told what matters.”
– Jeff Martin, CEO and founder of Tribal Brands


The “Me, Me, Me” generation. The digital natives. The Echo Boomers.

No matter what you call them, the millennials (or Gen Y), those born between 1980 and 1995, are the biggest age grouping in American history. Now in their prime spending years, this generation is set to reshape economy as we know it, and the $3 trillion health care industry will be no exception.

Unfortunately, most health care organizations aren’t ready for the arrival of the millennials. Among other things, health care lags behind retail, hospitality and other industries in delivering innovation and a better customer experience. Millennials are rejecting the traditional model of accessing health care, according to a growing body of research. And with startups eager to disrupt the industry, established health care organizations have no choice but to move faster and create a better relationship with millennials.

As a customer success manager working with some of the most patient-centric organizations today, and as a Gen Y consumer myself, I think the industry’s millennial problem boils down to four key factors: costs, technology, trust and information. Here’s why.

The cost factor


“Health care is just too expensive!”
some millennial


Cost-effective care and treatments are a priority for this generation. In fact, 50% of millennials admit to avoiding a doctor visit to save money. With money on their mind, millennials prefer to save with high-deductible insurance plans that have a lower premium. They buy insurance, but they often choose the least expensive plan. With out-of-pocket costs on the rise, Gen Y consumers prefer to see their upfront estimates before undergoing medical treatment.

So what does this mean for health care organizations? Lowering your price is one obvious option, but the right solution is more complicated than that. Ultimately, it comes down to value. Millennials need to see that your services are worth paying for. Since transparency is important to millennials, being clear about your pricing structure is also a good idea.

The trust factor

Millennials have already lived through a lot: a financial crisis that threatened to cripple the U.S. economy, record-breaking levels of student debt and, more recently, one of the most controversial elections in the history of the United States. It’s no wonder millennials have a hard time trusting traditional institutions.

That lack of trust, unfortunately, extends to physicians. In a study conducted by Greyhealth Group and Kantar Health, only 58 percent of millennials said they trust their doctors. (In contrast, 73 percent of people in the general population affirm their belief in their physicians.)

There’s one unlikely source millennials trust when it comes to their health care: Google. According to a 2016 Vision Critical study, 58 percent of millennials turn to Google for health and nutrition information.

Speaking personally as a Millennial myself, I am incredibly skeptical when doctors prescribe drugs. I do a great deal of research on community forums to find out more. Often, the opinions of other consumers hold the same weight as what physicians tell me. The studies I mentioned above validate that my behavior isn’t rare—in fact, it’s the norm. That’s why it’s critical for health care organizations to develop trust with their younger constituency and build that relationship over time.

The technology factor

People of all ages use technology to research their health care needs, but this is even more true for millennials. Online resources and mobile apps are just some of the ways millennials get information about their health. Gen Y consumers are technology early adopters, and when they start using a piece of technology, other generations tend to eventually follow.

More recently, millennials spearheaded the use of wearable technology in conjunction with health apps. I take digital technology as a fact of life, and in return, I expect others to rely on similar technology— including my doctor. I don’t expect a 3D holograph of the human body in my doctor’s waiting room, but I don’t see why health care organizations shouldn’t be able to offer online health portals, self-serve kiosks, online appointment scheduling, electronic medical record review and online payment options.

To win the business of millennials, health care organizations need to understand the tech behaviors and preferences of this generation. Ongoing dialogue with millennials is a good start to keeping abreast of what gadgets, technologies and digital experiences millennials are adopting—and why.

The information factor

When it comes to their health issues, millennials tend to “google it” and self-diagnose prior to scheduling their appointment. They want information to be readily available—and they want it to be easily understandable.

If you have a website full of industry jargon and hard-to-digest information, chances are millennial consumers will think twice before approaching your organization for health solutions. To establish a lasting relationship with Gen Y patients, health care organizations need to understand what information matters to these consumers and how they go about finding that information. Dialogue with your millennial patients can provide insight on best ways of communicating information to them more effectively.

Engage them—or else


“Millennials have opinions. We need to listen to them, build on their knowledge, and treat them with respect.”
– Lyn O’Connor Vos, former CEO of Greyhealth Group


Many health care systems are beginning to treat their patients like retail consumers. That’s a paradigm shift for many health care organizations, and they need to do due diligence to make sure they’re taking the right approach. Optimizing your pricing strategy, findings ways to prioritize transparency, becoming technologically savvy and delivering fast and convenient care are critical.

In the next decade, many millennials will become responsible not only for their own health, but also for their children’s wellbeing. It is imperative that health care organizations start engaging with millennials now to keep up with the evolving needs, attitudes and preferences of this lucrative generation.

So, how do you win over a millennial? Well, that is a $3 trillion question. And the future of many health care organizations rests on answering this very question now.

To learn more about the challenges facing health care, watch Diagnosing disruptions: De-risking decisions in health care’s digital age, our webinar with digital strategy expert Ed Bennett. 

Diagnosing disruptions: De-risking decisions in health care's digital age



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