Five Important Ways Millennial Patients Are Different

Josh Pirtle
Feb 9, 2021

Our last blog talked about millennial healthcare providers (HCPs) and how they differ from their more senior colleagues of the Gen X and baby boomer generations. To get a better understanding of the broad changes happening in the healthcare system we also need to look at millennial patients, who drive change in how healthcare is provided.

By now millennials are the largest generational group and their expectations about how they receive healthcare are very different than those of their (often) baby boomer parents and their Gen X predecessors.

Here are five important ways millennials are different.

Dr Google Will See You Now

Probably the most obvious characteristic of the millennial patient is their penchant for proactively seeking information about their health and conditions they could possibly suffer from. They are certainly not alone in consulting Dr. Google about the sore throat or that strange looking mole, in fact but they embrace online health information with even greater vengeance. 

The jury is still out on whether online medical information is a source of misinformation that can be harmful, or a wonderful tool to consult when preparing to visit a physician. The fact remains, though, that millennial patients are using online resources in unprecedented numbers to self-diagnose. 

But the quest for health information doesn’t stop there more sources of information than ever are available to the consumers willing to invest time and money, e.g.

  • Wearable monitors and apps that measure an ever-increasing number of health parameters – from sleep to blood pressure and mental well-being
  • genetic tests that provide information not just about distant cousins in Portugal but also about risk factors for a number of diseases
  • discretionary lab test, such a microbiome tests, that add additional information

These additional sources of information endow the patient with more (perceived) knowledge about their own health than previous generations could even dream of. 

There is another advantage to Dr Google: medical information found online is generally written in easy to understand English – rather than the dense, medical-jargon filled reports from healthcare providers. 

Answers at the Speed of Digital 

As digital natives millennial patients are used to getting answers in the time it takes to say “Siri, where is the nearest Chinese restaurant?” or – worse, in the time it takes them to type that question into their smart phone. They bring the same mindset of immediacy to healthcare.

It is not just Google searches healthcare providers need to live up to: many decisions and transactions that used to take a lot of time and effort have been transformed by technology. From booking flights to ordering food, hailing a ride or paying rent, an increasing number of services, even those that require a high level of security, are now done on mobile devices. To engage the millennial patient, healthcare providers and health systems need to adopt that model and offer more mobile convenience.

That need for speed also manifests itself in the millennials’ greater interest in telehealth: they are more open to telehealth services than Gen Xers and more than twice as likely as they Baby Boomer parents to use these services. In a survey done by Salesforce 6 out of 10 of millennials are interested in telemedicine, such as video chats, over in-person visits. 

Yelpification of Physician Selection

No new restaurant is ever visited and no new gadget ever bought without checking what others have to say about them. What is true for consumer goods and services is also true for healthcare. Physicians used to attract new patients by word of mouth or the occasional “Top 10 Physicians in Your Area” type articles and lists. Now reviews on Yelp, Healthgrades or other review sites inform the millennial patient. 


Lack of Trust in the Medical Establishment

That need to check and verify extends beyond physician selection to treatment options and drug selection. Online communities and patient advocates serve as source of information that millennials tend to consult when facing healthcare decisions. Just like millennial healthcare providers who prefer scientific publications over sales reps for information about drugs and treatments, the millennial patient is looking past the healthcare establishment for medical advice.

Money Matters 

Like no other generation before them, millennials have experienced themselves or witnessed with friends or family that healthcare can ruin you. A larger percentage of millennials than Gen Xers and baby boomers are uninsured, often because they cannot afford healthcare. Cost transparency matters to millennials who are more likely than their older peers to research cost of treatments and request an estimate upfront

There is an App for That

Engaging the millennial patient means that healthcare providers need to change the way they do business. Healthcare systems can learn from retail business and many are starting to with obvious adjustments just as streamlining the patient experience. That includes everything from convenient online scheduling and rescheduling of appointments, to sharing results of tests with the patient via email to offering video consultations. Another step is to listen to the customer and addressing problems swiftly to increase customer satisfaction. What’s good for the Italian restaurant is good for the pediatrician.

We are in the middle of seismic changes in healthcare with no end in sight. One thing, though, is clear, millennials are already the largest generational consumer group and just like other industries, the healthcare industry will have to adjust its ways to cater to that group.