Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) make up nearly a quarter of the entire US population. It’s not surprising then that they are worth an estimated $3.4 trillion in future health care spending. But their participation in the current health care marketplace is lacking due to – among other contributors – obscure pricing, poor convenience, lack of informational tools, and an outdated patient experience. Let’s take a deeper look into the future of health care and how millennials might influence it. 

Personalized Primary Care 

A Kaiser Health Foundation study found that almost half of millennials aged 18 to 29 did not have a primary care provider (PCP). And because so few have an established PCP compared to older generations, experts speculated that they simply weren’t interested in primary care – that they only value convenience. 

On the contrary, Welltok found that 93% of millennials do want to establish a primary physician relationship. So why aren’t those connections happening? While its true millennials want health care that’s fast, effective, and convenient, they also want health care that’s personalizedIn that same survey, 85% said providers only care about them when they’re sick. 

Convenience and personalization are just two pieces of the puzzle, though. Millennials also prefer a holistic approach to health care: a whopping 90% say they want mental health support from their doctor. 

In other words, millennials care about building an equitable relationship with their PCP and want to feel supported in improving their physical health and mental well-being. More than 80% of respondents said if their doctor understood them on a personal level, including their goals and interests, their doctor would better serve them. 

The Issue of Trust 

For millennials, that perceived lack of personalization is seemingly producing mistrust with physicians. Per Forbes, “38% [of millennials] say they trust their peers more than their physician. Additionally, over half (55%) said the information they find online is ‘as reliable’ as their doctor.” 

Similarly, millennials don’t believe their insurers have their best interests at heart either. In a 2019 HealthEdge survey of more than 5,000 millennials, over half graded their current health plan as an “F,” with just 53% believing their current plan is the most effective option in administering their benefits. Meanwhile, 62% found their health plan’s communication satisfactory – a “D.” 

Lack of Cost and Quality Information 

We’ve written about price transparency problems (and solutions) in the past, and millennials, perhaps more than any other generation, value accurate cost estimates before undergoing treatment. In fact, millennials are twice as likely as baby boomers to “shop” for cost estimates online. Still, high prices, surprise billing, and lack of quality, accessible information is thwarting their confidence: 79% found health care too expensive, and 77% said costs were too unpredictable. 

That lack of confidence has caused over half of millennials to delay treatment – or forego it altogether. 

Priority #1: Improving Price Transparency 

For health care providers, breaking down these barriers is the key to unlocking that $3.4 trillion worth of future care. So how can they do it? 

For one, health care providers and insurers can work together to become more transparent and offer adequate information that’s conducive to “shopping.” Knowing the total price of care before a patient receives treatment would go a long way to getting millennials to seek more care. Additionally, creating tools that allow users to search providers by doctor ratings, facility quality, and more would improve the patient experience.  

Health care providers would benefit by catering to Millennial preferences; offering accessible, easy-to-digest information on price and quality would boost consumer confidence and increase health care utilization for millennials. More health care consumers would equate to more money for health systems and better health outcomes for individuals – a win-win.  

But while price transparency is gaining national attention (see RAND Corporation’s Hospital Price Transparency Project) and bipartisan legislative support (see the Transparency in Coverage ruling), health care providers are strongly resisting or outright refusing to comply

The Direct Primary Care Solution 

Instead, employers are looking towards other solutions to provide their millennial workforces, like Direct Primary Care clinics. And rightfully so – Direct primary care is a proven method of improving patient health and lowering the total cost of care. Plus, its main features heavily appeal to millennials. 

Direct primary care is holistic, patient-centered care that combines physical, mental, and nutritional health. It creates a trusting patient-physician relationship while utilizing an alternative payment method (a flat, monthly membership fee) that dramatically improves individual access to high-quality care. Here’s a few other characteristics that make direct primary care clinics so attractive to millennials (and their employers): 

  • Enhanced Patient Access: Physicians spend more time with patients and offer an enhanced scope of services, more immediate care availability (like same-day appointments), and availability outside of clinic operation hours.
  • Evidence-Based Medicine: Care teams avoid test orders not linked to evidence and only refer care to specialists when absolutely necessary.
  • Risk-Stratified Care Management: Each patient receives care based on their unique needs; extended office visits, care manager guidance, monitoring and tracking, phone check-ups, etc. 
  • Care Coordination: Care teams engage in outreach, including chronic care condition management, coordination of care, and ensuring patient understanding of medications, orders, adherence expectations, etc. 
  • Care Navigation: Primary care physicians use a narrow list of trusted specialists to refer care to and remain in constant contact to develop a cohesive treatment plan.  
  • Behavioral Health Integration: Using patient records, care teams can identify patients who may need outreach to assess mental health needs, supporting patients through ongoing treatments. 
  • Realigned Payment Methods: Rewards the care management team based on quality of care – care quality, patient experience, resource use, and referrals – instead of volume of care (fee-for-service). 

To learn how The Alliance can help you create or join an on-site or near-site direct primary care clinic, reach out to our Business Development team.

Melina Kambitsi, Ph.D.

Melina Kambitsi, Ph.D.

SVP, Business Development and Strategic Marketing at The Alliance

Melina Kambitsi Ph.D. joined The Alliance in 2017 and leads the teams responsible for business development, client development, and strategic marketing. Dr. Kambitsi came from Network Health in Milwaukee and Menasha, Wis. where she was chief sales and strategy officer. In this role, she was responsible for sales and underwriting, strategic planning, product development and risk-based contract analytics. Earlier she was senior vice president of sales at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Honolulu, Hawaii and the vice president of sales, marketing, and product development at Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Read more blog posts by Melina