While the Millennials are beginning their careers as physicians, their peers are beginning their careers as patients. What are some of the ways this generation may impact the other side of the stethoscope?
Perhaps the biggest will be in the area of technology. The younger generation as a whole is and, it seems, has always been, “plugged in.” Unlike Baby Boomers, and even many of the Generation X group, face-to-face relationships are not as important for this generation. The catchphrase going forward may change to, “The doctor will text you now.”
Greater Tech Comfort
Kaiser Permanente Medical Group President Robert Pearl, MD, recently noted in his blog on Forbes.com that while Boomers generally value face-to-face relationships, both younger generations embrace their mobile devices to a much greater extent and with a much greater level of comfort.
“Ultimately the Millennials will lead the way in adopting these 21st century tools,” he wrote. “They take new technology as their birthright and, having come of age with social media, they are ‘sharers’ who are wholly at ease with communicating information in bits and pieces.”
They have also been brought up on communicating in small bits. Great amounts of information can be transferred within the confines of a 140-characters Tweet.
Because of this background, their attention span is thought to be shorter, so physicians will need to chunk their explanations and suggestions into small pieces. For Millennials, this strategy not only helps with understanding but also tends to be perceived as more transparent. How this will fit in with the needs of informed consent has yet to play out.
Consumers of Information
Another expected change, one that is already evident, is that the new generation will be more active consumers of information. They are unlikely to sit by passively accepting The Pronouncements from on High, even when it comes to healthcare.
“It is important for providers to realize that patient consumers are not asking these questions to challenge their clinical judgment,” noted Scott Shreeve, MD, CEO of Crossover Health, a healthcare delivery and management services company based in Aliso Viejo, Calif. “They are asking because they need to formulate in their own minds the value decision that will affect ultimately what they decide to do.”
Dr. Shreeve also forecasts that Millennial patients will be asking the doctor more aggressively for their help in becoming informed consumers. With this in mind, doctors will need to develop their ability to empower their patients by linking them to the vetted resources they need to make their own decisions.
“Just as the use of mid-level providers served as an effective extension of the physician, many new technologies can push outsourcing of care all the way down to the patient,” said Dr. Shreeve. “In this paradigm, the patient becomes another provider, perhaps a much more accurate and appropriate description of the term primary provider.”
Kurt Ullman is a freelance medical writer based in Indiana.