Millennials As Patients: What Do Their Relational Nuances Mean for Health Care Brands?

Posted by: Skyler Huff

The traditional patient/doctor experience is based on an interpersonal relationship between two entities: one patient and a professionally-trained medical staff. As it consists of the tangibility of a one-on-one interaction, a physician’s office and environment become familiar facets of health care engagements. Additionally, a physician (and members of their office) become key resources in a patient’s health care ecosystem – as well as a reference for health information and answers. Patients see physicians as an easy access point to resolutions and as someone who they can trust to put their well-being above all else.

Well, most patients. Millennials, enigmatic as ever, tend to vary from the norm.

Millennials are not instinctively turning to their doctors to assist them in their health endeavors. Half of Millennials claim to visit a doctor less than once per year, 93 percent don’t schedule preventative care visits and 42 percent are willing to cancel a check-up due to other priorities. Considering many haven’t seen their doctor in the past year, it comes as no surprise that Millennials are less likely to have an established relationship with a primary care physician (PCP) in comparison to other generations.

In fact, according to our latest research report, 88 percent of Millennials with insurance coverage have a PCP – compared to 92 percent of Gen X, 95 percent of Boomers and 97% of Silents!

Millennials relationship with a primary care doctor (chart)

From A New Picture of Health report

Additionally, only 75 percent of Millennials with insurance consider themselves a patient of a doctor compared to 86 percent of the general population. Ten percent of Millennials don’t consider themselves patients at all, but rather “clients.”

These statistics indicate a weaker, less personal relationship between Millennials and the doctors they see, likely because they meet their various health needs by shifting from one health resource to another (a.k.a, the internet). For example, nearly half of Millennials seek out health information from websites such as the infamous WebMD. Millennials also have fewer opportunities and/or less desire to strengthen doctor/patient relationships with established PCPs because they tend to only go to the doctor to receive care on a limited basis. And even when they do attend a doctor’s visit, only 27 percent of Millennials strongly agree that they collaborate with their doctors about their health needs, treatment options and plans compared to 65 percent of Baby Boomers.

So, what is holding Millennials back from engaging more frequently and more deeply with providers? Unfortunately, negative emotions are a significant factor.

When scheduling an appointment to see a doctor:

  • 54% of Millennials feel frustrated
  • 47% of Millennials feel confused
  • 34% of Millennials feel relieved

During an appointment with a doctor:

  • 56% of Millennials feel vulnerable
  • 28% of Millennials feel stressed

On average, only 25 percent of Millennials feel confident at all times with their doctor/patient relationships.

Overall, the mindset of Millennials as patients is more disengaged than the mentality of patients of other generations. While a personal relationship with a PCP might have been important to their parents and grandparents, Millennials are all about finding the right professional at the right price to address their needs. This means the way health care brands interact with Millennials must evolve.

Curious on how to get started? Download our report – A New Picture of Health: How Millennial Consumer Mindsets are Affecting the Health Care and Health Insurance Industries

About Skyler Huff

As a Content Specialist at Barkley and the lead editor of MillennialMarketing.com, Skyler combines a fervor for strategic communication with a passion for serving others to create in-depth research reports and insightful trend-based material to...See Skyler's full bio.

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