MedCity Influencers, Health Tech

Adopt a millennial mindset for 21st Century healthcare success

The days of the primary care provider (PCP) acting as a gatekeeper to care for Millennials are gone. Some 85% of previous generations elected a PCP, while 45% of 18 to 29-year-olds and 28% of 30 to 49 year-olds have no primary care provider

The adult population of the United States is evolving and with it comes new demands for the healthcare industry.  Approximately 73 million people, born between 1981 and 1996, are the new dominant demographic, and they have surged to more than 50% of the U.S. workforce.

They are upwardly mobile, health-conscious, tech-savvy, and independent-minded. Their view of healthcare is much different from their parents or grandparents, and they will change the way providers see their business. They are the Millennials, otherwise known as Gen Y.

How exactly will Millennials transform the healthcare industry? How do mid-twenty-first century healthcare organizations specifically cater to the needs of this growing and dominating population that demands efficiency, transparency and fast, seamless access to healthcare? Forbes characterized that as the “$3.4 trillion question” in 2019.

The Millennial DIY Model
Simon, 25, wakes up with a headache and sinus congestion. His nose is runny, and his eyes are red. He suspects he has a fever. Simon’s worried because the flu has been going around the office. He knows he should see a doctor. His path to healthcare is going to be much different than his father’s 20 years ago.

The first thing Simon does is pick up his smartphone and launch a wellness reference app. He searches for his symptoms and discovers his suspicions are likely true. He opens his laptop and clicks on a telemedicine application. He consults with a physician on a video call, who concurs with Simon’s suspicions of the flu and arranges a visit an hour later at the clinic within the retail pharmacy on the corner.

How to Meet Changing Customer Expectations
The days of the primary care provider (PCP) acting as a gatekeeper to care for Millennials like Simon are gone. Some 85% of previous generations elected a PCP, while 45% of 18 to 29-year-olds and 28% of 30 to 49 year-olds have no primary care provider (PCP) according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. What’s more, Millennials are turning away from traditional doctor’s offices as well – over 75% of them prefer the minute clinic retail option.

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This change in customer expectations around how care is accessed and received is a constant and a challenge that reality poses. The future of healthcare is driven by the digital technologies Millennials demand and is therefore constantly changing.

Bring the Mountain to the Millennial
Without dedicated PCPs, Millennials find advice in the digital realm — not the doctor’s office. They are more likely to make healthcare choices based on five-star reviews and opinions their friends post on social media. In fact, many physicians report that when a Millennial comes in for a visit, they come armed with information — not just about their symptoms but about their doctors as well.

Digital Health resources like self-service patient portals allow providers to give real-time, actionable information to members, providers, brokers, employers, and providers’ own customer service representatives. These tools and enrollment platforms help empower members while serving the data providers need to make better decisions for their business. With health plan customer engagement comes a mountain of data to track and guide the Millennial healthcare journey.

A Millennium of Healthcare Challenges
The Gen Y Millennial generation is the most educated, most upwardly mobile demographic in history, with more access to information and medical advancements than anyone before according to Pew Research Center. Yet, their high-stress, high-achieving lifestyle has a dark side.

According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index, Millennials are seeing their health decline faster than previous generations as they age. The decline will result in a greater demand for treatment and higher healthcare costs. The largest uptick is in behavioral health (depression, substance abuse, hyperactivity, overdoses, and suicides), which is consistent with a high achieving, driven generation, BCBS concluded.

Consequently, the cost of care is expected to soar due to the volume of Millennials saturating the U.S. workforce and the decline of their overall health. With the creation of federal healthcare exchanges nationwide and the expansion of Medicaid programs in 37 states as part of the Affordable Care Act, more Millennials qualify for healthcare plans provided by or subsidized by the government than in previous generations.

Answering That $3.4 Trillion Question
One of the more important aspects of the digital health platform is working to close community care gaps and addressing social determinants of health. The healthcare community can use machine learning to calculate next best actions and identify and control disease progressions. Many organizations are using machine learning and AI to accomplish this already and will continue to make advances in those areas with enormous promise.

Data-driven decision-making is now more critical than ever for healthcare plans. With value-based care contracts, including the capitated arrangements and outcomes-based reimbursement models that are becoming the new normal, healthcare providers must capture and compare risks vs. outcomes across member populations to define benefits packages and evaluate the quality of providers. With the proper technology and resources in place, providers can move beyond traditional business intelligence and reporting by leveraging structured and unstructured data in a big data environment — making data and intelligence the center of everything.

Photo: lorenzoantonucci, Getty Images

Lesa is the global practice lead for consumer solutions in "NTT DATA’s Health Plan Solution team focusing on digital innovations for health plans. She has approximately 35 years of leadership experience in healthcare, group benefits, health plans and consulting. In her role at NTT DATA she has helped lead the development of an integrated Digital Health Platform that gives health plans, providers, brokers, employers, individuals and members the tools needed to make better decisions.