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So much has been written about the Millennials. With the exception of Baby Boomers, Millennials are the most talked about and studied generation. Born roughly between 1981 and 1997 (depending on which survey you look at), this generation, we are told, thinks and behaves differently. Some 80 million strong, this generation grew up at a time of tremendous technological change. As digital natives, they are the most socially networked generation.
The key difference between this generation compared with Gen X and Baby Boomer is access to information.
Millennials have grown up in the age of having immediate access to information; that’s part of their DNA, says Viq Pervaaz, principal and life-sciences leader with EY’s People Advisory group.
“This shapes their personality, and we see it shaping how they view healthcare,” he says. “The access to immediate information is certainly influencing their decision-making. They have the innate ability to research a disease state and obtain information before seeing a primary care professional for very much a two-way discussion.”
Millennials are poised to become a major force in the $3 trillion a year healthcare market.
Millennials worry about health issues (such as getting a serious illness or affording the cost of healthcare) almost exactly as much as boomers. In fact, in some key categories, such as having access to doctors and medication when they need it, Millennials worry even more than Baby Boomers, according to a recent survey by Allidura, GSW, and Harris Poll.
This generation, however, is less likely to trust physicians and far more inclined to consult online experts and other sources for advice. This is the generation that is highly impacted by “Dr. Google,” researching health and therapies before they consult physicians.
Millennials want something very different from the traditional healthcare system, says Lynn O’Connor Vos, former CEO of greyhealth group.
“One of the primary points of differentiation is that they don’t want a primary care doctor,” she says. “They want convenience. They want a doctor they go to who uses emails and text. More importantly, they want to know they’re being heard.”
This feedback, Ms. O’Connor Vos says, means the industry needs to change its approach to reach this customer to engage them in better health outcomes.
A recent survey by ghg and Kantar Health confirmed Millennials’ growing influence over their own health and the health of their loved ones. More than half (52%) are what ghg and Kantar Health call “Health Activators” for their families, controlling healthcare decisions on behalf of others, making them an important member of others’ care.
The ghg/Kantar Health survey found that when Millennials fall ill, they are unlikely to rely on a doctor as their sole advisor. A minority of Millennials (41%), as opposed to a majority of respondents from other generations (68%), views a doctor as the best source of health information. Further, 45% of Millennials prefer to use an over-the-counter medication, rather than depend on a doctor to give them a prescription, vs. 34% of non-Millennials.
“While women, especially mothers, do a ton of homework before they come in to see a physician, they want validation,” Ms. O’Connor Vos says. “One physician we interviewed called herself a secondary source for her patients. Millennials really want to have a discussion. They want advice.”
But the ghg/Kantar Health survey revealed an interesting paradox: despite their sense of ownership, Millennials struggle with the confidence to commit to their decisions.
What Pharma Needs to Know About Millennials
Of the 86% of Millennials with health insurance, more than half get it through avenues expanded by Obamacare, such as individual plans, their parent’s plan, or Medicaid, according to a recent survey by the Benenson Strategy Group (BSG).
But costs are a huge concern. A recent survey of Millennials by Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS), found that 21% of those surveyed say they delayed seeking treatment when they were sick; 12% skipped follow up appointments recommended by their doctors; 10% skipped routine or preventive screenings; 9% did not fill a prescription; 8% skipped taking their medications; and 5% shared prescription medication.
“Millennials are sensitive to cost,” says Hector De La Torre, executive director of TCHS. “Pharma has to make prescription medications available at a reasonable cost because Millennials tend to be less insured. And despite being young invincibles, they are facing chronic conditions.”
In the TCHS survey, 54% reported having been diagnosed with a chronic illness, and most of these were related to mental health issues. Mr. De La Torre says the top chronic conditions mentioned were depression, weight issues, and anxiety disorders.
More than one-third of Millennials (34% vs. 17% of other generations) say they stop taking medicine entirely when they start to feel better, according to the ghg/Kantar Health survey.
“We still haven’t figured out how to motivate people to take their medication and adhere to prescriptions,” Ms. O’Connor Vos says. “Millennials are young, and they don’t want to be perceived as sick. There are also a tremendous number of Millennials who believe in alternative medicine today.”
Millennials expect customer service. This is true of healthcare as well, and they don’t necessarily need a primary care physician to give them medical information.
For Millennials, unmet expectations can negatively impact brand loyalty to a degree not seen with other generations. Accenture research shows 38% of Millennials rank as brand detractors vs. just 20% who are counted as promoters.
Millennials are the age group most open to new healthcare offers — nearly half those surveyed by Oliver Wyman and Fortune Knowledge Group have a high degree of interest in new products and services. Millennials are more willing to interact through new channels and technologies than older generations. Interest in new healthcare offers is highest among Millennials with chronic diseases (60% have a high degree of interest). This suggests that as Millennials age and more of them develop lifestyle diseases, the demand for new services could expand dramatically.
Last year, Sermo, the largest global social network for doctors, polled U.S. physicians about their interactions with Millennial-age patients to identify trends in how Millennials seek medical treatment. Nearly half of doctors in this survey — 45% — said Millennials are more likely to challenge treatment recommendations than other patients. An additional 16% identified Millennials being more cost-conscious as the biggest generational difference. These doctors predict Millennials will have a range of impacts on healthcare, including increased use of telemedicine, growth of online scheduling and extended hours, proliferation of walk-in clinics, and transparency of out-of-pocket costs.
Opportunities for Pharma
There is an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to embrace this customer, to change the way they communicate their products through social media, through Google, and through the voices of physicians, Ms. O’Connor Vos says.
She says there are tremendous opportunities for new models of healthcare. One such effort is Parsley Health, founded in 2015 by Dr. Robin Berzin M.D., a Columbia-trained physician and digital health expert. The site provides subscription-based “functional medicine,” which it defines as optimizing health and quality of life instead of just treating disease.
Members have unlimited access online to communicate with doctors not just about medicine or symptoms but also about preventive medicine, nutrition, and exercise.
Mr. Pervaaz says Millennials value authenticity and transparency.
“Millennials are willing to dig deeper for factual data-driven information,” he says.
This, Mr. Pervaaz says, provides an opportunity for pharma companies to leverage digital technology far more than they have.
“The one driver that will really excite this generational cohort is around digital technology enablement,” he says. “Whether it’s mobile access or telemedicine, digital technology has been the biggest influence that we’ve seen from this generational group.”
Millennials are strong believers in collaboration and team-oriented approaches, says Matthew Howes, executive VP, strategy and growth, Palio, an INC Research/inVentiv Health communications agency.
“They don’t appreciate the conventional way of doing things,” he says. “They’ve grown up with having things a click or a tap away, so being able to connect with other stakeholders, be it their colleagues or customers, is important. For them, the expectation is that communications should be quick, and walls within organizations should be broken down. They question why things are done the way they are done.”
He says Millennial doctors, for example, are more likely to ask Millennial patients to do additional research. In fact, a survey of Millennnial physicians by InVentiv Health Communications found that 59% say they believe being part of this generation has a strong impact in how they practice.
“They get into the details and they want to understand why things are the way they are,” Mr. Howes says. “They want to simplify the healthcare process, and deliver to their patients what they need. Both physicians and patients who are Millennials rely on digital as a way of communicating. It’s the norm for them. It would be like not using a telephone in 1990.”
Millennials have different expectations from pharmaceutical companies, Mr. Howes says.
“They would like pharma companies to do more than just tell them about their drugs,” he says. “Millennials definitely see through pure marketing messages. They want to see more authentic actions and they expect every company to do that. Generally there is a distrust of advertising but they trust experiences and they expect more.
“They want more content around disease education and information to help them make decisions between one treatment or another, news about healthy living and adherence support,” he adds. “These are more important to them than prior generations.”
Developing personalized communications for the Millennial population is critical, says Katie Sutherland, director of new business at Create NYC.
“Personalization goes beyond just including a person’s name on communications,” she says. “It’s looking at their online behavior, how they engaged with your brand, what actions they took, and then creating a customized communication for them based on these behaviors. Your outreach in the form of a text or email could then address why they came to your website, how they were referred, and where they are in their treatment journey.”
Ms. Sutherland says it’s important to provide Millennials with something actionable.
“With personalized communications, companies can then have more meaningful conversations with their customers, while providing them with something actionable, whether it’s to download information, get a co-pay card, or call a number for support.”
Kaitlin Griffith, of Beacon Healthcare, says because there is no one-stop place to quickly retrieve information on how health insurance works, what insurance covers, how to transition from pediatric care to adult care, or even how and when to pay bills, pharma companies should look to keep Millennials engaged in their healthcare routine.
“Companies could consider creating an app that provides healthcare support, education and — most importantly — convenience,” she says. “An app such as this should include a medical history profile easily accessed by any healthcare provider during a visit, doctor locators by insurance coverage and options to pay bills, set up payment plans, and schedule appointments. An app with these features will ideally make healthcare a lot less intimidating for those just getting started.”(PV)