How millennials are disrupting healthcare — and how to change benefits because of it

Their habits and decisions have disrupted industries from entertainment to transportation to retail. Now more than one in three American workers are millennials, making them the most represented generation in the U.S. labor force according to the Pew Research Center.

Does your healthcare benefits strategy cater to this group? If not, you’re missing a massive opportunity to engage these employees with impactful wellness strategies driving increased productivity and decreased prevalence of future chronic conditions.

This is a workforce unlike any other in U.S. history, and to attract and retain the best employees both now and in the future, companies must modify the approach to employee benefits. Here’s how millennial employees are disrupting traditional healthcare — and what you can do about it.

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1. They are less directly engaged in the healthcare system. More than half (56%) of millennials visited a doctor’s office in the past year, compared to three-quarters (73%) of non-millennials, according to a survey from C Space Health. Further, less than half of all millennials surveyed consider regular medical checkups (44%), health insurance (46%), vaccinations (39%) and routine cancer screenings (23%) to be part of their overall health and wellness.

What HR and benefits managers can do: Create benefits programs that engage employees and emphasize the lifelong benefits of improved health and wellness. This includes making a visit to the doctor as easy as possible, especially for preventive and primary care.

2. They get health information quickly and from multiple sources — and they act on it. Connectivity is the hallmark of the millennial generation. As digital natives, members of this cohort expect to be connected and online. According to Pew, more than nine in 10 millennials own a smartphone (92%), and almost all use the internet regularly (97%). With so much health information available online from sources likes WebMD, millennials are more likely to self-diagnose (28%) or treat at home (36%) before going to a doctor, according to a survey from C Space.

What HR and benefits managers can do: Along with making it easier to visit the doctor, ensure the right health and wellness information, including benefits and enrollment information, is easily accessible.

3. They expect to see providers quickly and with little difficulty. From food to dating to entertainment, near-constant connectivity means millennials expect their needs to be met quickly. Healthcare is no exception. With the average wait time to see a primary care physician lasting 18 days or more, it’s no surprise millennials are shifting away from receiving primary care at a traditional doctor’s office. According to PNC Healthcare, millennials prefer to use retail (34%) and acute care clinics (25%), which is double that of boomers (17% and 14% respectively).

What HR and benefits managers can do: Create healthcare benefits that establish long-term provider-patient relationships but also cater to acute care needs, such as same- and next-day appointments.

4. They view cost as an important factor when making healthcare decisions. It’s not news that millennials face financial pressures their predecessors did not. Growing up in the shadow of the Great Recession — along with high student loan debts and stagnant wage growth — has created financial burdens many other generations haven’t faced. Responses to a recent PNC Healthcare survey show millennials are more inclined (41%) to request and receive estimates before undergoing treatment. Only 18% of seniors and 21% of boomers reported asking for or receiving information on costs upfront.

What HR and benefits managers can do: Provide healthcare benefits that help make care more affordable for employees. For instance, many employers sponsor near-site and onsite primary care clinics at little to no out-of-pocket cost to employees.

What’s next? Like any new generation coming to prominence in the workforce, millennials are driving a new wave of healthcare benefits to the market, including high-convenience options like near-site and onsite healthcare. With a wide range of services and convenient access to low- or no-cost healthcare, employer-sponsored primary care may be a flexible solution to meeting the needs of both millennials and other generations in your workforce.

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