The Millennial Generation is unique in many respects, not the least of which is the way it uses medicine and the health care industry.
Dr. Michael Cirone, an emergency medicine physician for Advocate Health, said technology plays a huge part in the way Millennials use health care.
The term Millennial is most often applied to people currently aged 18 to 35.
“The whole generation grew up with smartphones and Wikipedia, and that influences how they interact with doctors and what they expect from them,” said Cirone, a Millennial himself.
In previous generations, doctors would order lab work and the patient would have to wait days for the results to come back and get a call from the doctor’s office.
“If you’re a Millennial, you want everything done quickly. They want to be able to pull up the test results on an app or view them through the hospital’s (online) portal,” he said.
However, Millennials are less likely to have a general practitioner than their parents and grandparents.
Part of this might be because they are more likely to move from job to job or city to city. It’s also partly because they tend to treat doctors the same way they view restaurants — reading all the reviews and comparing notes with their friends before deciding who they are going to go visit.
“They’re used to ‘Yelping’ restaurants, and so they’re willing to do the medical equivalent of Yelp or crowd-source their doctor choices, too,” he said.
Though they’re less likely to have a general practitioner and less likely to do preventive care, that doesn’t mean that they’re not literate about their health.
“When I see a Millennial patient in the emergency room, they can pull up their health care results in their phones,” he said. They’re also more likely to visit medical websites to get blood tests or screenings for sexually transmitted diseases without seeing a doctor.
However, there can be a danger in all that knowledge, as they might be more likely to use Google or any number of medical websites to interpret lab results without professional guidance.
“Things could go from a headache to a brain tumor. Someone comes in assuming the worst because they don’t have the context of a doctor explaining things to them,” he said.
Millennials also may be more impatient than previous generations. While previous generations would go to their general practitioner first, even if it meant waiting a few days, Millennials are more likely to go to an urgent care facility or a Minute Clinic to get seen immediately.
And while some things can be handled by a Minute Clinic or urgent care for, trips to the emergency room can be more costly because frequently more testing is done there than can be done in a doctor’s office.
“They want to see a doctor, and they want to see one quickly, and that’s not how things are typically done in the past,” he said.