Millennials and Healthcare: How the Game Has Changed

September 20, 2017
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Millennials, the largest living generation, are coming of age — as such, healthcare marketers need to understand how Gen Yer’s needs and expectations differ from other patient segments.

Millennials have developed a reputation for being lazy, narcissistic, and disloyal. While this is, of course, largely untrue, it’s important to note that Baby Boomers and Generation X both attracted similar derision in their heydays — labeled the “Me Decade” and “slackers,” respectively. While it seems that every generation has garnered harsh critique from its predecessors upon reaching adulthood, Generation Y is, in fact, decidedly unique from its forebearers when it comes to healthcare.

The fact is that tech-saturated Millennials lead drastically different lives from their parents — from their digital-centric relationships down to their dining habits — and this has had a significant impact on how they go about seeking health-related information and treatment options. For instance, 54% of Millennials search for information online before consulting a doctor, while only 39% of all patients worldwide do the same. What does this mean for physicians, hospitals, and medical marketers hoping to reach the largest demographic in history? All must enhance their digital outreach efforts to target Millennials as they come of age and enter the healthcare system.

A Different Definition of Health

One important thing to note about Millennials is that they’re one of the healthiest demographics in the U.S., with the fewest chronic illnesses and lowest rates of healthcare usage, according to MM&M. This can partly be attributed to the generation’s relative youth, but it also derives from their definition of health itself. Whereas older generations prioritize avoiding sickness and regularly scheduling healthcare appointments as key components of wellbeing, Millennials put eating right and getting regular exercise at the top of their list — important long-term strategies, but nonetheless ones that indicate a notably different approach, one focused on lifestyle rather than preventative care.

This relates directly to one of Millennials’ most valued expectations of the healthcare system: convenience. 28% say that it’s a challenge to find convenient options, and are most likely to feel that providers don’t devote the time necessary to understand their unique needs. There is concrete evidence to support this claim: 13% of Millennials have gone to the ER because they faced excessive wait times at a doctor’s office or were unable to schedule an appointment, more than twice the rate experienced by Boomers. Of course, this means that the industry must find innovative, new ways to accommodate this generation’s outsized need. For these true digital natives, 92% of whom own a smartphone, one of the best ways to do this so is by establishing a robust mobile presence. Put simply, this is no longer optional — it’s a baseline expectation.

Millennials Are Loyal

While connecting with this demographic may pose a unique set of challenges, the upside is this: Millennials are worth the effort. Contrary to their reputation for disloyalty, 42% of millennials surveyed by MM&M are looking for long-term relationships with their healthcare provider, regardless of sickness or health — and in general, 95% of Millennials want to be actively courted by brands, says Accenture, dispelling the generational myth of excessive fickleness.

In the same vein, Millennials are much more responsive to and engaged in the actual healthcare process. They’re most willing, for instance, to admit confusion or seek help navigating their care, from payment to treatment (35% admit to not understanding their medical bills). For the industry, this is a significant opportunity to meet Millennials in the middle — they want a digitally connected, personalized, and supportive healthcare experience. In other words, developing targeted campaigns that appeal to this generation’s emergent need for personalized care will not only appeal to your audience but solidify your status as a trusted medical partner.

The 75.3 million-strong Millennial demographic may be dismantling older generations’ ideas about how care should be advertised and delivered, but they’re also opening the door for healthcare companies to connect with patients in unprecedented ways. Those connections should be established immediately, because like it or not, Millennials aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.