Millennials, roughly anyone born between 1980 and 2001, make up a vital demographic within modern healthcare. Many of them are quite young and are newly experiencing their first need for care or, possibly, even their first independent adult interaction with our country’s healthcare system. And the data suggest that, so far, they hate it: a full 37% of millennials rate the current state of healthcare in America as “poor” or “terrible.”
This is unsustainable. Physicians who want to provide the best care for their patients will have to find a way to reach millennials at least somewhat on their own terms, or else risk alienating them even more from the medical system. As it is, fewer than half of millennials consider health insurance (46%), vaccinations (39%), or medication adherence (37%) to be part of their overall health and wellness, and 28 to 36% of them prefer self-diagnosis and home treatment to visiting a doctor.
Perhaps the easiest way to begin bridging this divide is for traditional healthcare to meet millennials where they spend their time: mobile and online. 85% of Americans aged 18 to 29 own a smartphone, compared to only 27% of those 65 or older, and 77% of them have used that phone to find information about a health condition. This certainly suggests that millennials might want to connect with their doctors online, too, but what does the evidence say?
Millennials Want Telehealth
The evidence that exists shows clearly that millennials want telehealth in all its various forms: online visits, appointment booking, mobile apps, wearables, etc. One major caveat is that all of these data come from survey studies that were sponsored by organizations with a high likelihood of bias, such as telemedicine companies. However, the reported results are typically dramatic enough that the conclusions are likely to be at least directionally correct.
In one 2016 study of 2,025 American adults, for instance, more than half of surveyed 18- to 34-year-olds reliably indicated a clear preference for telehealth care options:
- 64% reported that they would be open to virtual care treatment options as an alternative to in-office doctor’s visits for non-urgent matters,
- 70% said that they would choose a primary care doctor who offers a patient app over one who does not, and…
- 52% agreed that they would choose a primary care doctor who offers virtual care treatment options over one who does not (e.g. video conference call)
A separate study of 2,019 adults in 2014 found data to corroborate this, with 74% of respondents aged 18 to 34 indicating that they would consider seeing their doctor for an online visit. Concerningly, 11% of this same millennial demographic reported that they would even go so far as to switch doctors based on the availability of online visits, making them nearly four times as likely as those 65 or older to feel this way.
That same study also found that at least 70% of patients would rather have an online visit with their doctor than travel to an office appointment when they need a prescription. This was especially true for certain groups, such as people with children in the household, who were 67% more likely to prefer an online visit for middle-of-the-night care than other respondents in the study. Similarly, a full 42% of surveyed millennial women (ages 18 to 34) expressed interest in obtaining birth control through online visits.
A third study, which surveyed 2,095 adults in 2015, also found a desire for telehealth among millennials (respondents aged 18 to 34):
- 71% were interested in a doctor giving them a mobile app to schedule appointments, review health records, and manage their well-being and preventative care.
- 60% were interested in using telehealth options (e.g., video chat with a doctor) so they don’t have to come into the office for an appointment.
- 74% valued the ability to book online appointments or pay bills when selecting a doctor
Are these data biased? Almost certainly. Are they still so clear that they’re likely correct anyway? Yes, almost certainly. Furthermore, these studies also agree with separate reports on how millennials are using the internet and their phones for banking, shopping, dating, and many other aspects of their lives, so they pass the gut-feeling check for correctness.
The only real question now is how healthcare can catch up and catch up quickly. So get your skateboards and cool sunglasses ready for telehealth; it’s time to take care of the young generation…online.
- Lerman, K. Healthcare Without Borders: How Millennials are Reshaping Health and Wellness. (Communispace, 2015).
- Smith, A., Page, D. & Pew Research Center. The Smartphone Difference: U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. (Pew Research Center, 2015).
- Steinfeld, J., Salesforce Research & Harris Poll. 2016 Connected Patient Report: Insights Into Patient Preferences on Telemedicine, Wearables and Post-Discharge Care. (Salesforce, 2016).
- Modahl, M., Meinke, S., American Well & Harris Poll. Telehealth Index: 2015 Consumer Survey. (American Well, 2015). [Note: some data exclusively in infographic accompanying full study report]
- Salesforce & Harris Poll. 2015 State of the Connected Patient: Healthcare Insights From More Than 1,700 Adults. (Salesforce, 2015).