When we talk about consumerism in health care, a fact that cannot be ignored is that Millennials represent one of the largest cohorts of consumers — at least 73 million based on US Census Bureau data. Health care providers, insurance companies, employers and others need insights into this segment of consumers to successfully drive engagement.
How Millennials View Health Care
Last year, Communispace decided to take a deeper look at Millennials in the context of health care. The findings, published in Healthcare without Borders: How Millennials are Reshaping Health and Wellness, were based on multiple data sources — qualitative studies within three private, online communities run by Communispace including 297 Millennials and 318 non-Millennials and a 54-question web-based survey to an audience of 1,004 Millennials and 503 non-Millennials.
According to the research, Millennials express skepticism about the health care system — and organizations must address this distrust.
- 37 percent of Millennials rate the state of health care as “poor” or “terrible” while only 23 percent rate it as “good” or “great.”
- 66 percent believe that health insurers wield too much power.
- Only 25 percent believe they can trust information provided by pharmaceutical companies.
- More than 50 percent believe hospitals and other health care providers need to offer more transparency related to costs of care.
Moreover, notes the Communispace study, “One of the most prevalent truisms about Millennials says that they value the present over the future.” Reflected in the YOLO (you only live once) mantra, this attitude means that, in general, Millennials do not focus on routine medical and dental checkups. That doesn’t mean they’re opposed to maintaining their health. In fact, having witnessed the health challenges faced by their parents, there is a set of Millennials who want to “focus on staying healthy today, rather than worrying about getting sick in the future.”
Why, then, is this leading to changes in the health care landscape? Because Millennials, while they respect information provided by physicians, do not believe that physicians are the only reliable source of health information. When faced with a health care question, Millennials tap other sources:
- Because of their always-connected, tech-driven lifestyle, the Internet is the first source Millennials use for checking symptoms, finding information and self-diagnosis. Apps like WebMD also fit the bill for accessing health information where and when they need it.
- Next, Millennials will turn to trusted friends or family members, especially those that may have experienced similar health issues. They may also tap resources such as a friend in a medical profession or a local pharmacist.
- The doctor — whether a family physician, an urgent care clinic or emergency room — is a last resort if symptoms do not go away or get worse.
Clearly, the traditional approaches for engaging patients need to be revisited — and revised — based on these tendencies.
The Pros and Cons of Targeting a Demographic
While there are some generalizations that can be made about Millennials, a one-size-fits-all approach may still miss the mark. Despite similarities, individual consumers have different experiences, lifestyles, attitudes and motivations that can change how they respond to health care. While it can be easier to develop programs based on easy-to-identify demographics, the value of such programs can be limited.
Psychographic segmentation can help health care providers and other organizations ranging from insurers to mHealth app developers gain the insights needed to increase the effectiveness of their targeted solutions.
To address these differences, Communispace asked all study participants to respond to the PatientBond Consumer Classifier questionnaire which breaks down the consumers into 5 different psychographic segments, each with distinctive attitudes and motivations toward health and wellness. The Millennial population breaks down as follows:
- 20 percent of Millennials are Balance Seekers. They are wellness-oriented and likely to conduct research to provide context for any diagnosis and want options and choices for their course of care.
- 33 percent are Willful Endurers. They are likely to be more unengaged than other Millennials. The study suggests that health care organizations need to “meet these Millennials where they are at— which is not in the doctor’s office.”
- 18 percent are Priority Jugglers. They are motivated to address their families’ health issues or to prioritize their jobs over their own health care and are not necessarily proactive for themselves.
- 18 percent are Self Achievers. As the name suggests, they are positive and proactive. Because they tend to be goal-oriented, Self Achieves can often be motivated by competitive challenges.
- 11 percent are Direction-Takers. This segment follows the most traditional approach to health care, deferring to experts and seeking directive guidance.
As these results show, addressing Millennials as a single group based on demographics could cause organizations to miss out on significant variations among individuals. To make the most of the shift to consumerism in health care, health care organizations must understand that while demographic segmentation can help paint a picture of specific consumer groups, the only way to fill in the picture completely is to take a deeper dive into the distinct motivations that drive behaviors.