Millennials get a lot of press. That’s because the age group, born between 1981 and 1996 (if we use Pew Research figures), are about to overtake the baby boomers as the world’s largest living adult generation. By 2019, the millennial generation will make up 73 million of the U.S. population.

This cohort is changing every industry, in large part because they are the first true digital natives, having grown up with the hand-held supercomputer at their fingertips. This has irrevocably linked their buying patterns and behaviors to innovative and new digital technologies. The phenomenon is creating ripples across how we communicate, how we buy, and even how we approach healthcare.

That makes the latest news that millennials are dumping their need for one primary care physician interesting and in some ways not surprising. The Washington Post reported that the Kaiser Family Foundation polled millennials on their healthcare preferences and discovered that 45% didn’t have a family practice doctor.

How is this big change to traditional healthcare going to impact how we provide care? Could telehealth be a way to extend primary care or other services to these digital natives in a way they’re more likely to embrace?

Millennial Attitudes About Healthcare

Last year Becker’s wrote an article about the millennial generation, calling them, “a force to be reckoned with.” They suggested the population is changing healthcare by:

  • Forcing a greater emphasis on technology solutions for healthcare delivery.
  • Requiring more speed and efficiency during the healthcare encounter.
  • Requesting the use of telehealth applications.
  • Demanding a more consumer-oriented set of services.

While millennials are still typically lesser users of the healthcare paradigm when compared to older populations when they enter the medical system of care they look for faster service that leverages technology to improve treatment. This includes online appointment scheduling, self-service portals, and telemedicine, especially as a replacement for primary care related services.

Over the past few years, we’ve worked hard to redesign healthcare with primary care at the center of the hub and spoke. In theory, the primary care provider is the coordinator of care across our dispersed specialty networks. The family doctor of tomorrow was supposed to be the conduit to patient-centered care. The millennial population is turning these old models upside down, instead preferring the anonymity of the urgent care walk-in clinic over developing a more concrete relationship with one primary care provider.

Millennial Attitudes About Technology

A millennial views technology as a standard part of their lives, not an external tool that may or may not add value. That’s not only because they grew up using technology more than prior generations; most millennials also work as freelancers, typically telecommuting to their job, according to Upwork.

But to be a freelancer, you need good time management skills, which is exactly the appeal of an urgent care visit. Millennials generally understand the value of time and never seem to have enough of it, so there’s no room in their lives for a long wait time to either make an appointment to see a clinician or to cool their heels in a waiting room. PNC Healthcare did a study in 2017 that showed millennials are twice as likely as baby boomers to favor an urgent care or retail clinic.

But it is these same attitudes that have opened the door to widespread telehealth adoption across this population center. Salesforce says 60% of millennials express a great deal of interest in telehealth.

Bringing Telehealth to the Millennial Population

There’s a reason why the market for telemedicine is about to double. Millennials are leading the charge toward the trends that say widespread adoption of telehealth is on the way. These changes partially stem from millennial impatience with healthcare inefficiencies – inefficiencies that the baby boomers resigned themselves to. Today, if a millennial wants an answer, they Google it. Healthcare Informatics suggests that there is an overarching generational attitude that has completely shifted:

Certain segments of middle-aged and elderly Americans accept and even praise our healthcare system. Millennials, by and large, think it is inherently flawed. Older Americans are simply used to the inefficiencies that come from interactions with doctors and hospitals. But millennials grew up in an age of instant gratification.

Earlier this year, Healthcare IT News reported on a new study that showed millennials rate telehealth as “extremely or very important” to their choice of medical provider. The study also showed that this population is more comfortable shopping around online until their precise needs are met. The article stated:

Clearly, telehealth should be a part of any provider’s care strategy moving forward, and they should be looking for the means to implement it into their operations at some level.

Media Logic suggests that some of the most salient statistics on millennials and their comfort level with telehealth include:

  • 74% prefer a telemedicine visit to an in-person appointment.
  • 26% would switch current doctors over one that offers telehealth.
  • 71% want to be able to book their appointment through a mobile app.
  • 75% that have used telehealth rated it as superior to a traditional on-site office visit.

Given that millennials will have unprecedented buying power over the next decade, healthcare providers must begin to shift their practice toward accommodating these trends – or run the risk of losing market share to competitors. While the majority of hospitals already offer telehealth, smaller and independent practices typically fail to meet these needs.

It seems that millennials are about to make a big impact on the practice of the future. While there may not be an app to fix a broken leg, the changes that are coming will affect every specialty area – including orthopedics. That is why OrthoLive developed one of the first telehealth applications created specifically for the orthopedic specialty by an orthopedic surgeon. We offer a customizable telehealth solution for your orthopedic practice that is software-as-a-service. As all SaaS applications, OrthoLive is affordable and scalable to fit your practice precisely.

Contact us today for a complimentary demo of our product – and give your millennial patients the kind of practice they demand.

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