Millennials now make up the largest share of the U.S. workforce, eclipsing Gen Xers two years ago.
That means it’s a priority for employers to figure out how to engage and motivate them — including in their own health and wellness.
Some recent data, however, suggest a real gap in meeting their needs. This may demand changing some of the traditional ways insurers communicate with members and provide access to care.
In a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma survey of large employers this year, 58% said they were concerned about millennials accessing primary care.
Most millennials consider themselves to be in good health, according to a Health of America Report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
But the Association’s analysis of insurance claims for members across the U.S. found that millennials are actually less healthy than Gen Xers were at the same age. They have higher rates of several health conditions, including major depression and diabetes.
Treatment costs, according to a new analysis by Moody’s Analytics, could be as much as 33% higher for millennials than for Gen Xers at the same age. These costs, Moody’s writes, may have “significant long-term consequences on not only mortality, but also on employers, health care providers, and the economy as a whole.”
Millennials are roughly defined as people born between 1981 and 1996. That means most of them came of age as the internet was transforming nearly every part of life.
For the youngest, smartphones and social media were taking hold when they were teens. They got used to using mobile devices to get information and manage most daily tasks, so they value and expect convenience and speed.
Many are financially wary because they entered adulthood when the economy was in the depths of the Great Recession.
So, they may prefer to drop in at a retail clinic or urgent care center instead of making an appointment at a traditional medical practice. They may want to use a mobile app to manage chronic health conditions instead of going to see a doctor. They may be more likely to respond to a text message than a phone call.
“We value millennials’ need to access reliable, trusted resources in real time,” says Dr. Estéban Lopez, chief medical officer for clinical strategy and innovation for Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
However, looking at people through the lens of their generation is too simple and potentially misleading. The shifts in technology and culture behind younger people’s expectations for convenience are affecting people of all ages.
Instead of making assumptions based on age — or any single characteristic — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma considers a variety of circumstances, behaviors and attitudes that might influence how they’d prefer to get care and information.
For example, people of all ages who are generally healthy and live in urban and suburban communities are interested in innovative ways to access care.
Many Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma members have access to Virtual Visits for convenient access to non-emergency care and behavioral health on their phone, tablet or computer. The average age of a member who used Virtual Visits in 2017 and 2018 was 36.
With Wellbeing Management and Health Advocacy Solutions, many plans also provide access to online self-management courses through Well OnTarget® addressing a wide range of health conditions and goals, such as quitting tobacco.
Other digital health tools provide more focused guidance and coaching for managing health conditions, such as diabetes and musculoskeletal health. A new one available in 2020, Ovia Health, will help members manage fertility, pregnancy and parenting.
In the future, it may be possible for people to have telehealth visits with a network provider for primary care, who could have prescription drugs delivered within an hour or two. Voice assistants like Alexa and Siri may be able to direct members to appropriate network providers whenever and wherever they need care.
“We will be their one-stop shop to provide the services and resources they’re looking for,” Lopez says.