NOT YOUR PARENTS’ HEALTHCARE: How Millennials Are Shaping Our View on Health

This article was written by our colleague Taylor Grosjean, Manager, Client Experience


The millennial influence can be seen in just about every aspect of daily life. From boutique fitness to digital food, transportation, and personal finance tools, to remote and distributed workforces. Still, U.S. healthcare philosophy and infrastructure has yet to receive the same level of millennial-driven change. 

Until now. 

Currently the nation’s largest generation group, millennials comprise individuals born between 1981 – 1996, and are worth an estimated $3.4 trillion in future health care spending. While their participation in the healthcare economy has lagged their senior counterparts, this generation is ushering in new beliefs and lifestyle preferences that healthcare organizations must meet in order to stay competitive. 

MEET THE MILLENIAL HEALTHCARE CONSUMER 

While millennials span a diverse population with unique healthcare experiences, several themes have emerged, giving insight into the new behaviors and decision-making patterns of this generation. 

Meet Jen: She’s a 29-year-old IT consultant living in Philadelphia. She’s single and travels frequently for work, making routine in-person appointments difficult to schedule and keep. She opts for standard healthcare coverage through her employer, but often seeks out holistic therapies not covered by her insurance. Instead of having a primary care doctor, she researches providers online and through social media, identifying the most convenient and cost-effective options. At the end of the day, health is one of her top priorities, but it doesn’t start and end with a traditional doctor visit – diet, exercise, skin care, preventative medicine, and stress management are equally important to her. 

UNPACKING THEIR HEALTHCARE PHILOSOPHIES 

Jen shares many of the same healthcare philosophies as the 72 million millennial adults in the U.S. entering their prime spending years.  

It is no surprise that convenience is one of the top priorities for millennials when it comes to choosing healthcare services. But in the decades-old model that relies on family doctors as the gatekeepers to care, millennials are carving their own path. According to a 2018 Kaiser Health Foundation study, almost half of millennials aged 18 to 29 did not have a primary care provider. Instead, they were more likely to seek out retail clinics, urgent care facilities, and telehealth appointments to meet their needs when and where they need them. 

Additionally, millennials have broadened the very definition of healthcare to include therapies once deemed non-essential. A survey found that 90% want support for mental health, sleep, and family relationships. And with the introduction of wearable technology and health and lifestyle apps that put health data in the hands of the consumer, millennials expect to play a more active role in determining their holistic health plan. 

And then there’s cost. While perhaps universally scrutinized, millennials are calling for even greater transparency from insurance and providers alike to make informed decisions about their care. This extends to the decision to have health insurance. A 2019 study found that millennials had the highest rate of uninsured individuals (16%), outpacing both Gen X (12%), and Baby Boomers (8%). 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE? 

In addition to addressing top priorities for millennials, such as more convenient access to providers, more holistic care options to fit their personal health goals, and more transparent cost structures, healthcare organizations should be thinking about what the next generation of personalized medicine and, more broadly, health will look like. 

In the last decade, many health systems have touted their move to personalizing patient journeys. And while the sentiment of moving past the days of patients as mere numbers has real tangible benefits that should not be overlooked, millennial consumers are looking to have a stronger voice in the personalization equation. Rather than being shuttled through the system, they are increasingly wearing the hat of the “informed consumer” with a desire to both learn from subject matter experts and play a role in how their health journey unfolds. 

TELL US: How do you think millennials are shaping the future of healthcare?