Healthcare providers of all types will benefit from acknowledging Gen Z’s preference for digital interactions, self-testing, and over-the-counter medications
Each generation has its own unique connection to how it manages its health, and the latest studies into the healthcare habits of Generation Z (aka, Gen Z or Zoomers) are providing valuable insight that savvy clinical laboratory managers and pathologists—in fact all healthcare providers—can use to better serve their Gen Z patients.
According to McKinsey and Company, Gen Z’s “identity has been shaped by the digital age, climate anxiety, a shifting financial landscape, and COVID-19.” And Pew Research states that Zoomers “are also digital natives who have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones.”
As the largest demographic, “Gen Z stands 2.6 billion members strong. … Globally, they hold purchasing power of more than $500 billion and mobile buying power of $143 billion,” wrote Stacy Rapacon, Managing Editor at Senior Executive Media, in an article she penned for HP’s The Garage.
Meeting Gen Zers’ healthcare needs on their terms would seem to be a judicious choice.
“Gen-Z’s buying power may exceed $3 trillion,” wrote Bernhard Schroeder (above), a clinical lecturer on integrated/online marketing at San Diego State University, in Forbes. “Their spending ability exceeds the gross domestic product of all but about 25 of the world’s countries.” Thus, it behooves healthcare leaders, including clinical laboratory managers and pathologists, to consider how best to approach treating Gen Z patients. (Photo copyright: San Diego State University.)
Gen Z Leads in Digital Healthcare Use, Self-testing, OTC Drugs
“Gen Z engages in every type of digital healthcare activity more than other generations,” a recent study by PYMNTS noted. A total of 2,735 consumers were surveyed, and though all reported using digital healthcare to some degree, Gen Z stood out.
Patient portal access was the highest digital method accessed by Zoomers (62%), followed by telemedicine appointment usage (55%), the PYMNTS report found.
Knowing the direction Gen Z is trending may lead clinical laboratory leaders to expect self-testing to be on the rise, and that hunch would be correct. “There are two converging trends; the rise of women’s health technology and increased use of at-home sample collection for diagnosis tests,” Clinical Lab Products reported.
“Ongoing innovation in these areas could significantly improve the accessibility of women’s health testing. It will also have repercussions for labs, potentially changing the way samples are received and processed, and the way results are distributed. The quantity and quality of samples may be impacted, too. It’s important for labs to be aware of likely developments so they can prepare, and potentially collaborate with the health technology companies driving change,” CLP noted.
Another area feeling the impact of Gen Z’s healthcare spending is the over-the-counter (OTC) drug market.
“Since the pandemic began, more Americans are paying closer attention to their symptoms and looking for easily accessible information about over-the-counter medications, especially for allergies, coughs, and headaches,” said Kim Castro, Editor and Chief Content Officer for US News and World Report, in a press release.
Zoomers Want Healthcare on Their Own Terms
Gen Z grew up with the internet, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and social media since birth.
As digital natives, Gen Z can be more science and data driven and yet still expect to find health advice on YouTube or TikTok. According to an article published by Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, “Gen Z is the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital devices, and they expect their health benefits to be digital, too. From choosing a benefits package to finding a provider, Gen Z wants to take care of their health on their own terms. And that may just include video chatting with a doctor from the back of an Uber.”
In its 2022 US Digital Health Survey, research firm Insider Intelligence found that “Half of Gen Z adults turn to social media platforms for health-related purposes, either all the time or often.”
“Gen-Z will make up 31% of the world’s population by 2021 and they have deeply formed perceptions and beliefs … This has led to an amazing change in the way Gen-Z is disrupting several industries simultaneously,” wrote Bernhard Schroeder (above), a clinical lecturer on integrated/online marketing at San Diego State University, in Forbes.
What Can Clinical Laboratories Learn from These Findings
Gen Z seeks accuracy and trustworthy information. “Gen-Zers’ natural penchant for skepticism and frugality—coupled with low levels of confidence in the US healthcare system—makes them less likely to trust providers, more likely to research prices before seeking care, and more apt to worry that their health insurance won’t cover their treatment,” Insider Intelligence noted.
According to Contract Pharma, “Gen Z is concerned with holistic health and self-care, rather than a one size fits all pharmaceutical approach. They share a hesitancy for traditional healthcare models but with very interesting differences. By understanding these differences, the consumer healthcare industry can focus on agile and distinctive brands to harness Gen Z’s tremendous purchasing power.”
Savvy clinical laboratory leaders can better serve their Gen-Z client physicians and patients by better understanding why Zoomers are more inclined to order their own lab tests (without a physician), collect their own specimens to send into labs, and/or collect their own specimens to do home testing (think COVID-19 self-test kits). Zoomers may need an entirely new business model from their healthcare providers, including clinical laboratories.
Damo’s report notes that 71% of healthcare providers
surveyed expect their IT budgets to grow by 20% in 2019. However, much of that
growth will be allocated to improving EHR functionality, Healthcare Purchasing News reported
in its analysis of Damo survey data.
As healthcare executives plan upgrades to their EHRs,
hospital-based medical laboratories will need to take steps to ensure
interoperability, while avoiding disruption to lab workflow during transition.
The survey also noted that some providers that are considering
investing in AI and digital health technology are struggling to understand the
market, the news release states.
Positive Than Vendors on IT Spend
Damo Consulting is a Chicago-area based healthcare and
digital advisory firm. In November 2018, Damo surveyed 64 healthcare executives
(40 technology and service leaders, and 24 healthcare enterprise executives). Interestingly, healthcare providers were more
positive than the technology developers on IT spending plans, reported HITInfrastructure.com, which
detailed the following survey findings:
79% of healthcare executives anticipate high
growth in IT spending in 2019, but only 60% of tech company representatives
believe that is so.
75% of healthcare executives and 80% of vendor
representatives say change in healthcare IT makes buying decisions harder.
71% of healthcare executives and 55% of vendors say
federal government policies help IT spending.
50% of healthcare executives associate
immaturity with digital solution offerings.
42% of healthcare providers say they lack
resources to launch digital.
“While information technology vendors are aggressively
marketing ‘digital’ and ‘AI,’ healthcare executives note that the currently
available solutions in these areas are not very mature. These executives are
confused by the buzz around ‘AI’ and ‘digital,’ the changing landscape of who
is playing what role, and the blurred lines of capabilities and competition,” noted
Padmanabhan in the survey report.
The survey also notes that “Health systems are firmly
committed to their EHR vendors. Despite the many shortcomings, EHR systems
appear to be the primary choice for digital initiatives among health systems at
Providers Starting to Use AI
Even as EHRs receive the lion’s share of healthcare IT
spends, some providers are devoting significant resources to AI-related
projects and processes.
For example, clinical
pathologists may be intrigued by work being conducted at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for
Clinical Artificial Intelligence (CCAI), launched in March. The CCAI is using
AI and machine learning in pathology, genetics, and cancer research, with the
ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes, reported Becker’s Hospital Review.
“We’re not in it because AI is cool, but because we believe
it can advance medical research and collaboration between medicine and
industry—with a focus on the patient,” Aziz Nazha, MD, Clinical
Hematology and Oncology Specialist and Director of the CCAI, stated in an
article posted by the American Medical Association (AMA).
AI Predictions Lower
Readmissions and Improve Outcomes
Cleveland Clinic’s CCAI reportedly has gathered data from
1.6 million patients, which it uses to predict length-of-stays and reduce
inappropriate readmissions. “But a prediction itself is insufficient,” Nazha told
the AMA. “If we can intervene, we can change the prognosis and make things
The CCAI’s ultimate goal is to use predictive models to “develop
a new generation of physician-data scientists and medical researchers.” Toward
that end, Nazha notes how his team used AI to develop genomic biomarkers that identify
whether a certain chemotherapy drug—azacitidine (aka,
azacytidine and marketed as Vidaza)—will work for specific patients. This is a
key goal of precision
CCAI also created an AI prediction model that outperforms
existing prognosis scoring systems for patients with Myelodysplastic
syndromes (MDS), a form of cancer in bone marrow.
Meanwhile, at Johns
Hopkins Hospital, AI applications track availability of beds and more. The
Judy Reitz Capacity Command Center, built in collaboration with GE Healthcare Partners, is a
5,200 square feet center outfitted with AI apps and staff to transfer patients
and help smooth coordination of services, according to a news release.
Forbes described the Reitz command
center as a “cognitive hospital” and reports that it has essentially enabled
Johns Hopkins to expand its capacity by 16 beds without undergoing bricks-and-mortar-style
In short, medical laboratory leaders may want to interact
with IT colleagues to ensure uninterrupted workflows as EHR functionality evolves.
Furthermore, AI developments suggest opportunities for clinical laboratories to
leverage patient data and assist in improving the diagnostic accuracy of providers
in ways that improve patient care.