Editor's note: This story was updated on August 15, 2017.
The millennial generation is accustomed to on-demand convenience, but much of the health care industry isn't ready to deliver, Jason Hidalgo writes for the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Millennials, those born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, represent a quarter of the U.S. population. Given their numbers and purchasing power, the health care industry needs to change to win their business, says John Packham, director of health policy research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine.
"Millennials' expectations of health care are different than my generation and that will [lead to] change," Packham says. "I do think that the medical practices and health care providers that manage to resolve this will have a competitive edge."
How millennials are different
One thing that sets millennials apart from older generations is that they've grown up with the convenience of online services such as Amazon. That means they are "used to reaching out when they need something, getting instant gratification, moving on and only coming back when they have the need again," says Ron Rowes, CMO of Prominence Health Plan.
As a result, millennials are also more likely to demand a top-notch consumer experience. "Older people have sort of gotten used to interacting with providers in certain ways," says Kathy Hempstead, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation's director of insurance coverage. "I think millennials are going to give the health care industry more impetus to really improve the customer service part of what they do."
Millennials are also more cost-conscious than older generations and more likely to switch doctors, use retail clinics and urgent care facilities, or travel further to save money, Hidalgo reports.
Early adopters changing to serve millennials
While much of the health care system has been slow to adapt to millennials' expectations, some health systems have made strides, Hidalgo writes.
Renown Health, a Nevada-based health care network, launched a telehealth program earlier this year that it says has been popular with millennials. Rather than call to schedule an appointment and then wait weeks to see a doctor in person, the "Virtual Visit" program allows them to talk with clinicians quickly via a computer or smartphone.
Mike Soule, an integration architect at Tahoe Forest Health Systems, says millennial clinicians are changing health care, too.
At Tahoe, staff at its cancer center are using virtual tools "almost daily" to communicate with clinicians at University of California, Davis. But physicians have been hesitant to use telehealth with their patients—and Soule believes young clinicians can help increase adoption of the technology.
"Just getting more clinical staff to use these tools would greatly benefit the standard workflow," Soule says.
But others warn that practices shouldn't put all their eggs in the telehealth basket, and should instead focus on striking a balance between encouraging convenience and promoting the doctor-patient relationship.
"A lot of times with technology, a lot of things get lost in translation," says Bayo Curry-Winchell, an administrator at Saint Mary's Urgent Care. "There's still no replacement for putting your hands on a patient and feeling their heart, which you can’t get when you're talking on a computer" (Hidalgo, Reno Gazette-Journal/USA Today, 2/7).
How to win millennials' loyalty
The two tried-and-true strategies for retaining frontline nurses—building strong engagement and offering clinical residency programs—aren’t sufficient to prevent turnover of millennial nurses. Nationally, turnover of millennial nurses in the early years of their career is soaring, and the challenge will intensify as millennials become a greater percentage of the nursing workforce.
This webconference series equips nurse leaders with strategies to help them create a practice environment early-career millennial nurses won’t want to leave. It includes best practices on creating a safe environment for early-career nurses, encouraging early-career nurses to explore lateral transfers, detecting retention risk, and even winning back staff once they have given notice.