We Believe Series: Future Generations Will Value “Wellness” over “Healthcare”

We Believe Future Generations Web

Demographics do not define consumers or reduce them to simple stereotypes, but a generation’s unique needs, biases, and behaviors are worth considering in the development and marketing of consumer-driven healthcare services. Sometime in 2019, Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) surpassed Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) as the largest US generation; then by 2020, in just under a year, Generation Z (born 1997 to present) outgrew the Millennial generation by nearly four million. By the end of the next decade, Millennials will account for the country’s largest consumer segment. At that point, one in five Americans will also be at retirement age as Generation X (born 1965 to 1980) begins to phase out of the workforce.

These numbers are staggering. The demographics of our population are dramatically shifting.

Consumers Drive Decisions

By 2030, the average consumer will be highly educated, racially and ethnically diverse, upbeat about their financial future, health conscious, and technologically savvy. Contributing to the diversity of tomorrow’s consumers, 43% of Millennials are nonwhite, a larger share than any preceding generation. The shift in the consumer persona will precipitate distinct behaviors, service demands, and convenience expectations that will fuel a shift toward valuing wellness over healthcare.

Both the young and old generations are already demanding more and will continue to push the envelope. Due to higher levels of education and access to on-demand information via technology, these generations will be more empowered to question established principles of medical care and demand greater attention to their own definitions of health-related quality of life than their elders. In a 2017 study conducted by Aetna on consumers over the age of 18, patients agreed their primary care physician should have familiarity with their mental health history (86%) and ability to handle stress (84%).

Likewise, the more tech-savvy consumers, who will have recently braved a global pandemic, will demand online services in the form of telehealth and mobile applications that they became accustomed to during that time. Even Baby Boomers, whom health professionals previously thought of as unlikely to embrace digital health platforms, say they would use telehealth for their chronic disease management (61%). The more convenient, minimally high-touch, and faster the service in their eyes, the better. This trend preceded the pandemic, when Forbes identified personalized healthcare with features such as telehealth, text for triage, and flexible care options for transient populations as consumer innovations to watch for in 2020. Healthcare organizations should be proactive in recognizing and addressing this shift toward consumer-driven services.

The more health conscious among the Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Generations X and Z populations will be knowledgeable about the various contributing factors to their overall well-being, outside of physical health. As a result, they will take ownership of their preventive health and share this information with their healthcare provider. Even more so, one in five Millennials say they cannot afford their basic healthcare expenses but will spend money on and take advantage of wellness services, so services such as mental health, chiropractic, massage therapy, and acupuncture will be in high demand as more and more Americans seek “self-care.”

Some Americans have already determined it is more beneficial to stay healthy and invest in wellness expenses. Today, the average American spends $155 a month, or approximately $1,800 per year, on supplemental health and fitness services, with many spending more. Not surprisingly, this spending and demand for wellness services will become even more prevalent with the demographic shifts over the next decade.

How can health systems shift their focus to meet changing consumer lifestyles and preferences.

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