In the movie “Big Hero 6,” the millennial protagonists build and developed “Baymax,” a robot with artificial intelligence that acts as a personal health companion. It activates when someone is in need of medical attention and stops only when the individual is satisfied. While still a fiction, the situation represents what millennials are capable of.
Born mostly between 1980 and 2004, they are already the largest generation in the US, overtaking the Baby Boomers and Gen X, in 2016 (according to Pew Research Center). This year, they are expected to spend in excess of $200 Billion. They are also a generation that focuses less on ownership (house, car, and others) and more on service and value (the rise of the Uber and the AirBnB). It’s no surprise that they have led to the rise of sharing economy and accelerated growth of the experience economy.
The millennials today are not looking for just a transaction; they expect an experience that adds value. These expectations, fueled by abundant and instantaneous information and economic constraints, have had a domino effect on other generations, such that they have started having similar expectations. The combined effect has fundamentally transformed the user experience in industries like retail, banking, and telecom. How often do we go to our bank branches or to our telecom service provider’s office to get things done? Not often, right? A recent survey by UPS found that shoppers made 51 percent of their purchase online. These industries had to redefine the user experience through technological innovations—cloud services, digital payments, secured authentications, intuitive user interfaces, and more recently—artificial intelligence (Watson, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc) and robotic process automations—all with the intent of providing a simpler, faster and more valuable experience, closer to where the customer is.
The millennials, being used to this enhanced experience in other industries, have the same service and user experience expectation from the Health industry. Also, their focus seems to be more on holistic health and wellness (preventive care) and less on curative care. This force is driving major changes in health delivery and reshaping the user experience.
The increase in retail clinics is a good example. According to an Accenture study, the increase between 2014 and 2017 is expected to be 47 percent with nearly 2800 clinics across the country. The expectations of more flexibility (shorter wait time, less travel time), better value (lower cost for similar services) and simplicity (one stop shop for treatments and prescriptions) are leading to this significant change.
Patient portals, mobile health applications, and wearable devices are making it easier for patients to access and analyze their health data, whenever and wherever. A recent study by Accenture found that between 2014 and 2016, accessing electronic health information grew by 60 percent and the use of health apps and wearables grew by 100 percent.
Online search and reviews, though still not the predominant method, are increasingly becoming key sources of finding the care provider. Not all such websites are reputable, but there are a sizable number of them (like WebMD, ZocDocs, Top Doctors and Healthgrades) that are trustworthy.
New partnerships continue to form, to provide new and innovative experiences. For example, hospitals (like MedStar Health) are partnering with ride-sharing companies (like Uber) to make trips easier for patients. While this will benefit patients of all generations, the change was influenced largely by millennial behaviors and expectations.
The journey is far from over and the user experience in the health industry, in the areas of interoperability and portability of health data, personalized medicine, and others, could definitely be made better. However, it’s heartening to see that millennial-driven user expectations are influencing industry players to think out-of-the-box and innovate with technology to strive for creating a best-in-class experience.