Meeting U.S. Millennials Halfway on Healthcare
 
U.S. millennials are less likely to go to the doctor, more likely to try alternative medicine.

Meeting U.S. Millennials Halfway on Healthcare

By Ana G Reisdorf, MS, RD

U.S. millennials are interested in their health — but not in traditional ways.

This generation of young adults born between 1981 and 1996 exercises more, reads more health-related blogs and seeks more medical advice online than any other generation does. What they don't do as often is go to the doctor. A 2015 online survey found that 93 percent of millennials don't schedule regular check-ups with their primary care doctor. Instead, they seek convenient healthcare — they go to an urgent care facility or access medical advice online if they get sick.

American millennials aren't avoiding doctor's offices because they don't need to go to a doctor. It's that they see doctor's visits as inconvenient, impersonal and lacking value. Worse still is that millennials don't trust their doctors. A 2018 survey from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research found that 55 percent of millennials believe that online health information is as reliable as information from a doctor.

Bridging this gap is paramount as this generation ages, especially because rates of chronic diseases are on the rise. So how can healthcare providers keep millennials invested?

Convenience Is Key

Many U.S. millennials say they don't have the time to seek or wait for medical care, according to an article in the Washington Post. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 45 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds don't have a primary care provider to schedule an appointment with. And those who tried to schedule an appointment with one faced long wait times; it now takes an average of 24 days to schedule a new patient appointment in 15 of the largest U.S. cities, according to a 2017 survey by Merritt Hawkins.

So American millennials are turning to more convenient ways to receive treatment. Walk-in retail medical clinics and urgent care clinics are often open longer on weekday evenings and on weekends, and they offer more convenient healthcare for this busy generation. Millennials are also more likely to visit telehealth sites that offer virtual visits with a practitioner, allowing them to get medical help without having to leave their home. A 2018 survey from EBRI Research found that 40 percent of millennials were interested in telehealth.

Doctors are listening. Many have begun to offer more convenient ways to be reached to discuss treatments or results, including via email, and some offer virtual visits. And some healthcare systems now offer healthcare apps that keep track of medical records and reduce redundancy in hospital visits, which streamlines the medical process.

Alternative Remedies

According to a Nielsen study, millennials in the U.S. are much more open to trying alternative or natural health options as opposed to traditional medical treatments. Younger millennials are 40 percent more likely to seek out alternative medicine, and 68 percent of millennials take dietary supplements. Millennials are also less likely to take prescription drugs, and more likely than other generations to use complementary medical treatments such as acupuncture, exercise, meditation or supplements.

The healthcare industry is taking note. Many major insurance plans now partially — or even completely — cover alternative remedies, such as acupuncture or massage.

Concerns About Cost

Money also factors into why U.S. millennials avoid the doctor's office. They believe that healthcare costs are unpredictable and simply too high; 54 percent of millennials have admitted to putting off medical treatment because of the price tag. In 2016, 74 percent of millennials didn't fully pay their medical bills, according to a TransUnion Healthcare report.

Millennials in the U.S. are also more likely to ask for a discount, appeal an insurance decision or request a cheaper treatment option, and they're more likely to price-check or comparison-shop for insurance. They're also burdened with the most medical debt, says a PBS report. Concern over medical costs could be why millennials put off visiting a doctor until things get critical — which is the last thing that doctors want.

Some doctors are working with millennials to address their financial concerns by providing more transparency around billing and the costs of different services. The cost of care can be confusing, and providing millennials with clear and accurate data goes a long way toward establishing credibility and trust. Healthcare systems are also working to connect people with financial professionals before treatment or services are provided. These efforts by doctors and hospitals could go a long way in making a traditional medical experience more personal for a millennial — and fewer surprises on the bill could go a long way toward rebuilding trust, too.

Bridging the gap that separates American millennials and health providers is a major concern for healthcare professionals. Millennials don't want to be told how to manage their health. They want easy access to convenient healthcare, and they want providers who not only put a personalized touch on treatment but work with them as partners in maintaining their well-being.