Updated July 2020
A definitive split exists today between each generation and how they access healthcare. Those like me from “Generation X” are committed to well visits, keep a roster of specialists available, and make time for in-person visits and sometimes mental health appointments.
These traits stand in sharp contrast to the generation before mine - the Baby Boomers – which viewed going to the medical doctor as a sign of weakness, viewed "well visits" as a waste of time, and forget about mental health visits; they were an embarrassment. When someone in the Baby Boomer generation got sick, most would either "tough it out" or use something over-the-counter. In my personal experience, I saw this approach backfire for my father and many of his peers, who have struggled with one chronic ailment after another due to years of neglecting personal care.
On the surface, one might think neglect for care is skipping a generation, as the Millennials are viewing healthcare as an inconvenience much like the Baby Boomers did. Surveys show that more than one-fourth of Millennials do not have a PCP, while another 40% have one, but do not have a regular relationship with them.
The study also showed that they are less likely to think ahead about their health, find going to see a PCP inconvenient, tend not to schedule preventative visits, and when they do seek care, they look for the cheapest option.
Unlike my father's generation, though, Millennials' avoidance of PCP-based care is not from stubbornness or indifference. Rather, it comes directly from the infinite and constant access to healthcare information online.
Millennials are five times more likely to turn to tech than any other demographic. Before going to a doctor or specialist, most Millennials will have utilized the Internet or other available technology before deciding if they need direct care.
This "anytime-anywhere" access to healthcare greatly improves the amount of information at the fingertips of Millennials. Unfortunately, most are not medical professionals, and are therefore not optimally suited to utilize that information. Nevertheless, the move forward with what they know because, as noted above, having to attend a physical appointment is "inconvenient."
Convenience isn't their only issue. According to Becker's Hospital Review, half of Millennials cite cost as a reason to avoid trips to the MD. This may also explain their tendency to opt for low-cost, high-deductible health insurance plans that cover them mostly for catastrophic medical issues rather than daily or maintenance-focused healthcare.
Even booking an appointment is a task Millennials seek to make more convenient. A recent Harris Poll shows 71% of Millennials prefer to book appointments online...even more (74%) would prefer to conduct their visits online.
With the rise of available telemedicine resources, though, seeing a board-certified doctor doesn't have to be inconvenient. In fact, the combination of being able to utilize the technology they cherish, over the medium they prefer (e.g., home computer, smartphone, or tablet), whenever and wherever is convenient for them, provides physician access in precisely the way Millennials seem to prefer. Not only do they prefer it, but almost two-thirds of them already utilize it.
This point is not lost on the medical community. More than one-fourth of healthcare providers have already begun to implement telemedicine options. Millennials' preference for telemedicine is also driving a surge in mental health telehealth options, and with the generation now well into its child-raising years, pediatrics is likely not far behind.
With the availability of telemedicine options rising, the question then becomes where to turn for telemedicine services. Again, Millennials will likely turn to the Internet, where they should look for answers to these questions:
- What is being offered? Look for telemedicine providers that offer a broad range of services to meet your varied needs, be it urgent care, nutrition, therapy, or dermatology.
- Who conducts the telemedicine sessions? Does the telemedicine provider have board certified doctors, nurse practitioners, or physician’s assistants conducting telemedicine visits? And if you are calling about a specialized service or conditions, will the call be handled by a specialist in that discipline?
- What hours are physicians or other medical professionals available?
- Are there reviews of the telemedicine service? What do others think about the assistance they have received? Many of their questions will be the same as yours.
For Millennials looking for the most convenient, cost-effective means to access healthcare, telemedicine is fast becoming the way to avoid doctor’s office visits, without jeopardizing your long-term well-being.