Millennials — those born between 1980 and 1997 — make up 25% of the world’s population according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Database and a 2016 Nielsen study. Most millennials have not yet had a severe personal illness to experience first-hand the challenges of the U.S. healthcare system: high drug prices, co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles, to name a few. Millennials have, however, seen family members — parents, grandparents, and others — worry over coverage issues, face crippling medical bills, and fear debt or ruin from their healthcare bills. As a result, millennials are largely critical of healthcare, making it difficult for payors and healthcare organizations to reach them and prepare for their needs. In this blog, we’ll explore the millennial generation, their ease with technology, and what medical professionals can do now to reach millennials before they need healthcare services in high numbers.
A Snapshot of Millennials in Healthcare
Millennials are the most diverse group in the United States: 43% speak English and 25% speak a language other than English at home. Per National Public Radio, 34% of millennials are educated with at least a bachelor’s degree and remain single well into their late 20s: the average age for marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men.
Millennials grew up and live in the digital age.The majority of them own a smartphone and are more comfortable using it than pen and paper. Millennial stake a consumeristic approach to healthcare, courtesy of all the available information via digital networks. They shop around to find what they want and are confident doing so. This is in contrast to earlier generations, which perceived healthcare largely as a benefit provided by employers or the government and settled mainly with what they got.
Millennial Healthcare Trends
In a 2013 Aetna survey, millennials defined health as “eating right, exercising, and maintaining the ideal weight for height.” Millennials do not believe in preventive visits and schedule a primary care visit only 61% of the time, compared to 85% for the “silent generation” (those aged 73 to 90), and 80% of baby boomers.
Most millennials are comfortable using apps to buy meals, schedule taxi rides, weekend getaways and to check-in for flights. Healthcare organizations will have to work with IoT technologies such as Alexa or Watson to meet the expectations that millennials with technology being such an intrinsic part of their lives. According to a 2015 PNC Healthcare Survey, trends that are driving healthcare change among millennials include:
- Rapid delivery: Millennials prefer acute care clinics and retail compared to earlier generations, with fewer millennials visiting their primary care physicians.
- Word-of-mouth marketing: Approximately 50% of millennials refer to online reviews like Yelp and Healthgrades before choosing a healthcare provider.
- Online research before buying: More than 50% of millennials research online for their insurance options before selecting a plan. Eighty-three percent of millennials have a Facebook account and discuss with others on social media to find answers.
- Request for estimates: Millennials request and receive estimates before undergoing treatment and 34% report that the final bill is higher than the estimate.
- Delaying treatment due to costs: Due to rising costs and surprise bills, more than 50% of the millennials report delaying or avoiding treatment completely compared to earlier generations.
Redefining Healthcare for Millennials
Some of the ways to reach millennials include:
- User-generated content: Millennials trust authentic interaction and user-generated content with compelling stories than they do content generated by companies. One way to do this is through Instagram: inviting pictures that can then be linked to healthcare websites. By creating an image and culture in which millennials want to participate, they will contribute their own content. This involves them actively in brand formation and boosts the reputation of the healthcare providers.
- Push versus pull marketing: Per the Nielsen study, millennials like to be informed about healthcare companies, products, and business practices. This can be provided through blog posts, videos, eBooks, and whitepapers to share relevant content that captures millennials’ attention.
- Responsive web design: Millennials live a fast-paced life and are connected continuously to several digital devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Traditional media like TV and newspapers do not play an essential part in their lives. In fact, millennials and Gen X spend approximately 46% more time with their devices than with TV, per “The Rise of Mobile Prodigies“. Responsive web design can recognize the device used by the user and adapts the website or blog to fit seamlessly to the device. With millennials using the latest smartphone, responsive web design is the best route to reach them. A website that depends on user content from Instagram or other social media sites and opens on smartphones will see a higher conversion rate compared to any other strategy.
- Mobile Apps: Millennials are spending 87% of their time on mobile apps compared to only 13% on mobile web. Healthcare organizations should develop apps that engage health-conscious millennials if they want to generate a return on investment (ROI) with mobile marketing.
It is important for healthcare organizations to remember that though there may be similarities to any generation, millennials are fiercely independent and refuse to be put into a single box that defines them. They have distinct minds and ideas, are largely ethnically diverse, and fiercely guard their identities. Eighty percent of millennials expect to see content relevant to their locations and specific interest. Providing them with healthcare information that reflects their individuality and predicts what they will want in the immediate future is a strategy that is likely to win their loyalty. However, price and benefits will continue to play a significant role in reaching millennials, since many of them will be paying for large parts of their healthcare out of their own pockets.