Millennials Shaping Future Health Economy

Jul 15, 2015

Baby boomers dominate the nation’s population.

But analysts watching the health care economy say it’s the youngest health care consumers who are shaping the future health care economy.

Credit U.S. Army

PwC's Health Research Institute is in its 10th year of evaluating the nation’s health care economy. Lindsey Jarrell, a PwC partner based in Tampa, says health care companies need to pay close attention to trends involving millennials, those Americans born between 1981 and 1997.

Jarrell says some of the latest HRI reports show that the tech-centered life this generation leads is changing the way health care providers do business.

“They are being really savvy consumers. In many ways, the health care organizations of today are going to have to wake up and get ready to serve this tech-savvy customer base,” he said. “…I liken it to how does a millennial interact with a restaurant choice today? Certainly not like you and I did probably 10 years ago.”

The next three to five years, he says, are critical as health care practitioners and insurance companies juggle serving millennials, their parents and grandparents.

Each generation interacts with doctors and others differently. And as consumers with employer-based health care plans are paying between $500 and $1,000 more out of pocket, companies need to know consumers are being more selective about which treatments and drugs they spend their money on, he said.

“They (millennials) may define their relationship with a health care organization almost completely digitally, without ever walking into a building,” he said.

Millennials are not the only ones being discerning about their money, Jarrell said. HRI surveys show that consumers are spending significantly less of their money on prescription drugs and treatments. That may have a long-term impact not only on the consumer's health, but on the overall health care economy, Jarrell said.

But millennials can teach older consumers a thing or two about getting business done, Jarrell said. They know how to get the attention of the companies they conduct business with, through outlets such as social media.

Jarrell says he was traveling with a millennial-aged colleague recently when they experienced a problem with an airline. He said he watched his colleague send a tweet mentioning the air carrier and the issue. The company responded directly within 30 seconds.

“A light went off for me,” Jarrell said. “Communication is really going to change when it’s out in the public domain.”

Mary Shedden is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. WUSF is part of Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.