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.
Oscar Health is billed by its Millennial cofounders as a new type of health insurance—one that “curates” or coordinates members’ care with the help of health information technology (HIT) on the Internet, a smartphone app, and personalized services by concierge teams. So, it is interesting for pathologists and medical laboratory leaders to note that New York-based Oscar is partnering, through two different deals, with well-established Cleveland Clinic and rival Humana to enter the Ohio and Tennessee healthcare markets.
As Dark Daily reported in a previous e-briefing, Oscar aims to leverage sophisticated technology solutions and data to challenge complexity and costs associated with traditional healthcare insurance. An approach no doubt driven by the modern thinking of the company’s young founders. We alerted lab leaders that the insurance startup could be the latest example of technology’s power in the hands of Gen Y and Gen X entrepreneurs.
And while Oscar has reportedly experienced financial challenges, it is moving forward with the widely publicized new partnerships, as well as additional plans to expand insurance coverage in more states. Therefore, it’s important for clinical laboratory professionals to follow Oscar, which soon could be a healthcare payer of clinical laboratory and anatomic pathology services in more regions of the country.
Why Is Oscar Teaming Up with Cleveland Clinic, Humana?
In short, Cleveland Clinic is making its debut into the health insurance market with Oscar. And Oscar is moving into Ohio on the coat tails of this nationally prominent healthcare provider. The co-branded Cleveland Clinic/Oscar Health insurance plan will be offered to northeast Ohio residents in the fall for coverage effective Jan. 1, according to a Cleveland Clinic news release.
“This is a rare opportunity to work with the Cleveland Clinic to deliver the simpler, better, and affordable healthcare experience that consumers want,” said Mario Schlosser, Oscar’s Chief Executive Officer and cofounder in the news release.
Josh Kushner (left) and Mario Schlosser (right) cofounded Oscar Health, a New York-based health insurer that employs computer technologies, a mobile app, and concierge-style healthcare teams to provide members with a modern health plan experience and easy access to quality healthcare providers. (Photo copyright: Los Angeles Times.)
Access to primary care providers affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic, and an Oscar Health concierge team (a nurse and three care guides) that can refer patients based on their needs to other providers in the care continuum;
Smartphone technology to make it possible for members to explore their health needs, find options, and review costs.
“We are looking to build a new relationship among payers, providers, and patients. This relationship goes beyond the traditional approach of getting sick and seeing the doctor,” noted Brian Donley, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s Chief of Staff.
In an article on the partnership, Forbes suggested that narrow healthcare networks like the Cleveland Clinic/Oscar model might be just what the ACA exchanges need to remain operational.
However, a Business Insider article suggests that Oscar—already active in New York, Texas, and California health exchanges—could be adversely affected by a successful replacement of the ACA, currently being debated by Congressional lawmakers.
Nevertheless, Alan Warren, PhD, Oscar’s Chief Technology Officer, told Business Insider that the Cleveland Clinic/Oscar Health insurance plan would go forward even if Obamacare did not.
Formal Rival Humana Now Oscar’s Partner in Small Business Insurance
Meanwhile, the partnership with Humana takes Oscar, which launched Oscar for Business in April, 2017, further into the small business health insurance market. Humana and Oscar will sell commercial health insurance to small businesses in a nine-county Nashville, Tenn., area effective in the fall, according to a joint Oscar/Humana news release.
“The individual market was a good starting point. But it was clear from the beginning that the majority of insurance in the US is delivered through employers,” Schlosser stated in a New YorkTimes article.
As to who does what, Beth Bierbower, Humana’s Group and Specialty Segment President, explained in an article in the Tennessean that Humana will contract with hospitals and doctors for small business insurance, while Oscar’s technology solutions will help small businesses and their employees manage healthcare benefits and gain access to providers. “These people [at Oscar] are on to something,” she noted. “They are doing something a little different. Maybe this is a situation where one plus one, together, might equal three.”
Future Growth Planned by Oscar
The New York Times called Nashville “a new step for Oscar,” and noted that it follows Oscar’s recent loss of $25.8 million during the first three months of 2017—47% less than Oscar lost during the same period in 2016. Since its inception, however, Oscar has raised $350 million in investment capital, much of it from Silicon Valley investors.
Also, Oscar’s small-business health insurance plans, which started in the spring in New York, might launch in New Jersey and California as well, an Oscar spokesperson stated in a Modern Healthcare article that also reported on Oscar’s intent to increase individual plans sold in the ACA Marketplace from three states to six in 2018.
Clinical Laboratories Benefit from Increased Consumer Access to Health Providers
Could Oscar succeed with its new Cleveland Clinic and Humana partners? Possibly. Both deals are pending regulatory approval as of this writing.
In any case, the whole idea of making insurance more palatable for consumers is something clinical laboratories, which are gateways to healthcare, should applaud and support. It is good to know that insurers like Oscar are using technology and personal outreach to ease consumers’ access to providers and help them explore options and costs.
Medical laboratories can get ahead of the trend by developing processes for serving younger healthcare consumers in different ways
Experts say that Millennials are rewriting the rules of healthcare. Rather than following in baby boomers’ footsteps, this new generation of young adults shops for healthcare in ways that may change the provider-patient relationship for all providers, including pathologists and medical laboratories.
Also known as Gen Y, this generation interacts with healthcare providers differently than earlier generations in at least three basic ways:
When seeking medical advice, they first turn to websites;
They prefer to ask friends for physician referrals; and,
They are not shy about requesting discounts from providers to cut their medical costs.
Different Approaches to Choosing Doctors and Communicating Concerns
One consequence of the difference in intergenerational attitudes of physicians is the trend to more employee physicians
For the dominant generation working in healthcare today—the Baby Boomers—retirement looms. At the same time, however, the younger generation—particularly Generation X—is acquiring the experience and maturity needed to assume leadership roles. As these individuals move into senior executive and administrative positions, healthcare experts are predicting growing conflict over the role of physicians in the new models of integrated healthcare now taking shape in this country.
Experts tell us that each generation has a unique set of preferences, work ethics, and personal goals. Thus, a specific management initiative that typically motivates one generation may actually be a disincentive for another generation.