How Millennials and Generation Z Are Driving the Digital Healthcare Revolution

October 22, 2019

Millennials and Generation Z consumers are driving significant change in the US healthcare system.

This article was cowritten by Peter Scott, a journalist and editor who has been covering healthcare, business, and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years. You can contact him at PeterEditorial@gmail.com.

Millennials and Generation Z consumers are driving significant change in the US healthcare system.

Accenture’s 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey of more than 2000 people discovered a surprising split between older and younger consumers’ views on healthcare services. Millennials were found to be 2 or 3 times more likely to feel dissatisfied with the following factors than baby boomers:

  • Appointment times (16% of millennials feel dissatisfied compared with 6% of baby boomers)
  • The channel through which care is available (13% vs 4%)
  • The effectiveness of the care available (12% vs 4%)
  • Whether they received the medication they expected to be prescribed (10% vs 5%)

Respondents in the Gen Z category showed even higher rates of dissatisfaction with 32% saying they felt unhappy with the effectiveness of their care and 24% taking issue with medication choices, channel/location, and cost.

Millennials and Gen Zers have come of age in a world in which digital technology is ingrained in most aspects of life, from forming social circles to consuming media. But what changes are their technological fluency and drive for more accessible service creating in healthcare?

1. Online/Mobile Access to Test Results

The Accenture survey shows a rising preference for healthcare providers to deliver online and mobile-friendly services. Overall, 44% of millennials would choose a medical provider because they offered digital solutions via mobile compared with just 29% of baby boomers.

This comes as no surprise considering 65% of millennials and Gen Zers interact more with each other digitally than face to face. More than 70% keep their smartphone within arm’s reach while sleeping and 64.5% take their phone to the bathroom, the survey found.

The traditional process of delivering test results involves face-to-face or phone communication during specific hours. Online/mobile access offers consumers important information regarding their own health 24/7.

This brings more balance to the relationship between healthcare provider and patient/customer, according to the head of Accenture’s global Health practice, Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD:

“As more patients take control of their own healthcare, provider organizations must offer meaningful choices that fulfil the needs of all generational groups,” Safavi said. “Providers and payers who stay one step ahead of the shifts and deliver what patients are looking for will be the ones to earn loyalty, navigate disruption and be strongly positioned as the future unfolds.”

Online access to test results allows providers to cater to younger generations who are used to managing their finances, calendars, social events, and careers online. There’s no need to wait for hours, or even days, for test results, based on when a doctor or nurse can fit a chat into their schedule. The information is uploaded and accessible at a convenient time for the person whom it affects.

2. Electronic Prescriptions

The Accenture survey shows millennials and Gen Zers cite electronic prescriptions as a desirable healthcare service. Roughly 42% of millennials feel e-prescription refills are important, compared with just 30% of baby boomers.

This is a growing trend both inside and outside the United States, which is set to dominate the e-prescription market as demand increases. In the United Kingdom, paper prescriptions are due to be eschewed entirely. A move to digital prescriptions will save the National Health Service a projected £300 million (US $379 million).

Saving staff time and offering patients a more convenient experience are both considered critical factors for the move, too.

3. Virtual Consultations With Doctors

Around one-third of the respondents to Accenture’s survey have used virtual healthcare services of one kind or another (an increase of 21% since 2017).

The proliferation of video chat technology empowers patients with the freedom to consult a doctor remotely. A consultation with an online doctor is less disruptive to schedules and responsibilities: Patients need only to set aside the time required for the appointment itself, rather than factoring in the walk/drive to a clinic, sitting in the waiting room, other delays, etc.

Face-to-face consultations can take place via phone, laptop, or tablet, wherever the patient has an internet connection. Patients can present their physical symptoms/injuries rather than trying to describe them as they would by phone.

4. Wearable Tech to Achieve a Healthier Lifestyle

According to eMarketer research, 25.5 million millennials in the United States use a wearable device at least once each month (around a third of millennials), up from 21.2 million in 2017. Around half of respondents to Accenture’s survey use wearable tech or mobile apps to manage their lifestyle and healthcare status, too.

The Medical Futurist reports that around 50% of millennials are so concerned with living a healthy lifestyle, they urge their friends to do the same by embracing different methods.

Wearable tech, such as Fitbit and smartwatches, allow millennials to measure their exercise levels, monitor their heart rate, and track their sleep patterns. Results published in an article on Amelia, a health and wellness appointment booking software site, reveal 63% of millennials would prefer give their doctors health data taken from their wearable devices, so they can check their well-being based on their daily activities.

Accenture’s survey found more than half of respondents use virtual nurses to assess their health, vital signs, and medication, too.

5. Managing Appointments Online

Finally, managing appointments with doctors and nurses is another growing trend for younger generations.

Nearly half (40%) of millennials prioritize booking, cancelling, or rescheduling healthcare appointments online compared with only 19% of baby boomers. Research by GetApp found that 70% of consumers want to make appointments online, with booking by phone considered frustrating for 56%. Waiting on hold is a major issue, as are inconvenient office hours.

Roughly 31% would be more likely to switch service providers if they were able to use online booking instead.

Again, it’s about convenience, self-control, and minimizing wasted time. Millennials and Gen Zers have “grown up with constant streams of data and instant access to information [...] instant gratification is their modus operandi,” according to Entrepreneur, with the average attention span shown to be around 8.25 seconds.

And “instant” is the key word in the digital healthcare revolution. All of the research and statistics reveal an ongoing shift to a more accessible healthcare industry in which the patient enjoys more control.

Being able to view sensitive health data, test results, schedules, and interacting with medical professionals online is shifting the power balance in patients’ favor. This is a significant departure from the traditional model, but healthcare providers must adapt to this growing demand to ensure patient/consumer satisfaction and loyalty.