How millennials transform healthcare

The much-analyzed millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) will soon inherit the earth. And while baby boomers (i.e. their parents and grandparents) claim to not understand this younger generation, it’s healthy to recall that back in 1965, these very same parents-to-be joined their uber-rock heroes, the Who, in loudly proclaiming, the kids are alright.

They are indeed all right. It’s just that millennials have their own perspectives based on the very different economic and technological environments they grew up in. This includes millennials’ views and expectations about healthcare, which will inevitably shape our future.

So how do millennials view healthcare differently? Five issues rise to the top:

  1. Who needs a doctor? As reported recently in the Globe & Mail, StatsCan says 4.4 million Canadians don’t have a regular family doctor. And yet, Canada is producing more doctors than ever: “In the past five years alone [the article was written in 2018], the number of new doctors graduating has shot up 24 per cent. Similarly, the number of physicians recruited from abroad has jumped 20 per cent,” outpacing our population growth by a factor of three. In fact, not having a doctor is sometimes a choice. So, whether we have or don’t have a shortage of GPs (and that’s still up for debate), millennials feel less need for a doctor and are willing to simply use a walk-in clinic.
  2. A holistic view of health. Millennials see health and wellbeing as part of a larger complex of factors that includes prevention, exercise, nutrition and mental health. They’re not alone. Canadian corporations are changing their benefit packages to accommodate this more holistic view.
  3. Open to talking about mental health. Unlike previous generations, millennials are far more open to discussing stress, depression, eating disorders, addiction and other mental health issues. They’re also more comfortable seeking help if they need it.
  4. Comfort with technology. While it’s always risky to self-diagnose, millennials are more likely to Google what ails them, to visit sites that rate doctors, and to use medical apps, including those linked to wearable fitness trackers. They’re also more receptive to emerging services, such as virtual care, online medical appointment scheduling, referrals and prescriptions.
  5. Alternative treatment. Since millennials don’t have their parents’ unquestioning respect for standard medicine, they’re also more receptive to alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture and naturopathy.

As millennials age and take over the reins of industry and government, these attitudes — and new ones to come — will no doubt shape how our nation views and delivers health care.