Engaging Millennial Healthcare Providers

Josh Pirtle
Feb 9, 2021

You can’t seem to open a magazine or watch a report, let alone read anything about marketing these days without being reminded of the importance of a specific generation: millennials.

Yesterday’s kids have grown up: born between 1980 and 1996 the oldest millennials are now fast approaching 40 and even the youngest are adults.




Millennials are already the largest segment of the workforce, and as boomers decline and Gen Xers hold steady millennials will soon account for 50% of the workforce. By 2030 a whopping 75% of the workforce will be made up by millennials.

This overall increase of the millennial workforce is also true for the healthcare industry – the percentage of millennials among healthcare providers (HCPs) is steadily increasing and so is the number for healthcare customers - the patients.

In this two-part series, we discuss how to engage millennial HCPs and how millennia patients differ from prior generations. 

Millennial Healthcare Providers - Are They Really That Different?

Much is written about millennials as the first generation of “digital natives.”  A generation defined by technology with both their professional and personal life unthinkable without a device that gives them instantaneous access to both information and people. Their experience growing up in a digital world fundamentally impacts the way they seek, consume, and communicate information, and with that, how millennial HCPs need to be engaged by pharmaceutical companies.

Peer Trumps Promotion

The impact and importance of pharmaceutical sales reps and promotional materials are waning in favor of peer recommendations. One of the signs of this development is the increased number of “no-see” doctors, who have barred visits of pharma sales reps entirely. The percentage of “no-see” HCPs reached over 40% in 2017, according to a survey. The rate of physicians in hospitals that ban visits is exceptionally higher at 57%, where the majority of millennial physicians work. 

Rather than receiving information prepared by commercial pharma departments, millennial HCPs prefer raw scientific information and data, mainly from two sources: medical journals (95%) and their peers (75%) with sales reps scoring a dismal 28% (source). 

While these numbers must be concerning for the commercial departments, they are good news for medical affairs for two reasons:

  • With younger physicians being highly partial to scientific information, e.g. medical literature, the unbiased and scientifically deep information medical science liaisons provide is exactly the what millennial HCPs are looking for. MSLs therefore are likely to continue to play an important role in interacting with HCPs.
  • The value of peer recommendations also speaks to another of medical affairs’ main activities: working closely with key opinion leaders who now have an even larger influence on their HCP colleagues than they used to have.

One of the challenges and opportunities for pharmaceutical companies in engaging millennial healthcare providers is to create platforms that allow the efficient sharing of scientific information with HCPs, ideally in real time – because patiently waiting around for answers to their pressing questions is generally not considered a strong suit of this generation. 

Heavy on Information, Light on Fluff

Millennial HCPs seek reliable scientific information and so MSLs and even their sales reps colleagues need to be prepared to provide it. Therapy area expertise and (unbiased) product information are just table stakes these days. In-depth information about the latest clinical trial data, the competitive pharma landscape, the products, and real-world evidence are also part of providing the comprehensive information HCPs require.

The challenge and opportunity here are two-fold: to be excellent providers of insights and information, the MSLs themselves need to be extremely well prepared. Continuous training and communication with other teams across the company are needed to stay on top of the flood of information. In addition, MSLs need tools that allow easy and fast access to information they can pull from in real time to create a custom response to an HCP’s request and the appropriate tools to communicate with HCPs. 

Information? Yes, please! But Don’t Just Dump on Me

Stereotypically millennials are said to be impatient, easily distracted and partial to “snacking” on bite-sized pieces of information rather than digging into, say, a 30-page scientific report with glee and enthusiasm.

While this is undoubtedly an oversimplification, their “digital native” upbringing predisposes them to short-form content. 

Given that preference, medical science liaisons need to be able to provide short yet custom-tailored content. Modular content libraries that allow MSLs to “mix & match” prepared content blocks are the best way to address both these needs. 

Engaging the growing group of millennial healthcare providers requires some adjustments with regards to how information is parsed, delivered, and communicated. With millennials soon accounting for the largest group of healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and especially medical affairs department need to start delivering content in a way that this digital native generation relates to.