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.
It’s not just radiology. Gen Z residents will be matching in pathology and other specialties, and that means clinical laboratories should be ready to adapt their recruiting and training to Gen Z’s unique characteristics
It’s a big event in medical schools across the nation when it is time for residency programs to match residency candidates with first-year and second-year post-graduate training positions. But this year has a special twist because—for example in radiology—this is the first class of Generation Z (Gen Z) residency candidates to be matched with radiology residency programs.
In their abstract, the authors wrote, “This year, the radiology community will experience the beginning of a generational change by matching its first class of Generation Z residents. To best welcome and embrace the changing face of the radiology workforce, this Viewpoint highlights the values that this next generation will bring, how radiologists can improve the way they teach the next generation, and the positive impact that Generation Z will have on the specialty and the way radiologists care for patients.”
Members of Gen Z are now entering the workforce in large numbers. To recruit high-quality candidates from this generation, healthcare employers—including clinical laboratories and pathology practices—may have to adapt the way they interact with and train these individuals.
Gen Z is generally described as individuals who were born between 1995 and 2012. Also known as “Zoomers,” the demographic comprises approximately 25% of the current population of the United States. They are extremely diverse, tend to be very socially conscious, and can easily adapt to rapid changes in communications and education, according to the AJR paper.
Although the paper deals with radiology, this type of information can also be valuable to clinical laboratories as Gen Z pathologists are poised to enter clinical practice in growing numbers. This marks the beginning of the professional laboratory careers of Zoomers, while Millennials move up into higher levels of lab management, the oldest Gen Xers near retirement age, and Baby Boomers retire out of the profession.
“Gen Z employees bring unique values, expectations, and perspectives to their jobs,” said Paul McDonald (above), Senior Executive Director at staffing firm Robert Half in a news release. “They’ve grown up in economically turbulent times, and many of their characteristics and motivations reflect that.” Thus, clinical laboratories may have to develop methods for recruiting and training Gen Z staff that match the unique characteristics of Gen Z candidates. (Photo copyright: LinkedIn.)
Zoomers Like Digital and Artificial Intelligence Technology
One of the most unique aspects of Gen Z is that they have never lived in a world without the Internet and have little memory of life without smartphones. Zoomers grew up totally immersed in digital technology and tend to be comfortable using digital tools in their everyday life and in the workplace. They lean towards being very open to artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can assist humans in analysis and diagnostic methods.
“This group of professionals has grown up with technology available to them around the clock and is accustomed to constant learning,” said Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director at staffing firm Robert Half in a news release. “Companies with a solid understanding of this generation’s values and preferences will be well prepared to create work environments that attract a new generation of employees and maximize their potential.”
According to the AJR paper, Zoomers learn best by doing, so employers should concentrate on interactive learning opportunities, such as simulations, virtual reality, and case-based methods for teaching the aspects of the job. They are likely to expect digital and blended resources as well as traditional approaches to learning their new job responsibilities.
The paper goes on to state that Gen Z members value diversity, equity, inclusivity, sustainability, civic engagement, and organizational transparency. Their social consciousness and diversity may yield a greater range of perspectives and problem-solving approaches which may bolster their sensitivity to patient-centered care.
“The oldest in Gen Z have already seen a recession and a war on terrorism. They’ve seen politics at its worst. And now they’ve seen a global pandemic and are about to see recession again,” said David Stillman, founder of GenGuru, a boutique management consulting firm that provides insights on how best to connect with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z, in an interview with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “They are survivors,” he added.
According to the SHRM, “Stillman says Millennials, who preceded Generation Z, were coddled by their parents. He maintains that Generation Z’s parents were more truthful, telling their offspring, ‘You’re going to have a really tough time out there, you have to work super hard,’ which he says created ‘the most competitive generation in the workforce since the Baby Boomers.’”
Gen Z Wants More than a Paycheck, They Want Purpose
The American Journal of Roentgenology paper also states that Gen Z members grew up in a rapidly changing world and tend to be resilient, adaptable, and flexible. They have experienced and witnessed many stressors and navigate these issues by focusing on mental health and a meaningful work-life balance. With respect to a profession, they are searching for more than just a paycheck, and they want a purposeful career where they feel a sense of belonging.
Increase information sharing and transparency to help alleviate fear and anxiety.
Incentivize them by showing them clear paths to career progression.
Make sure they know how their individual contributions matter to the organization.
Motivate them by giving them room for autonomy and experimentation.
Provide specific and constructive feedback.
Harness community and in-person interactions to boost professional collaborations.
Prioritize wellness and mental health.
“Be prepared to spend time with them face to face,” McDonald stated. “They want to be mentored and coached. If you coach them, you’re going to retain them.”
Preparing to Attract Gen Z to Clinical Laboratories
As Generation Z comes of age, more of them will be working in the medical professions. Clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups would be well advised to prepare their businesses by adjusting leadership, adapting recruiting efforts, and shifting marketing to attract Zoomers and remain relevant and successful in the future.
Although sweeping statements about individual generations may be limiting, understanding their unique insights, values, and backgrounds can be helpful in the workplace. With a large amount of Gen Z workers now transitioning from college into careers, it will be beneficial for clinical laboratory managers to recognize their unique characteristics to recruit and maintain talented workers more effectively.
Gen Z values differ from previous generations’ values and medical laboratory managers should know in advance how members of this generation are likely to view their new workplaces
Medical laboratories managers and pathology group stakeholders have long been concerned about the looming retirement of Baby Boomers working in America’s clinical laboratories. With more and more members of this age group leaving the workforce, and with the following Gen X and Gen Y workers moving into positions vacated by Boomers, the next generation of workers—Generation Z (Gen Z)—is arriving to fill the gap.
This newest, youngest generation brings unique attributes and values to the clinical laboratory industry. Laboratory managers, pathologists, and business leaders need to understand those characteristics to work with them effectively.
Gen Z Values Reflect the Turbulent Times We Live In
With the addition of this newest age group in corporate America, there are now four distinct generations simultaneously working in the marketplace:
1. Baby Boomers (born early- to mid-1940s to early-1960s;
3. Generation Y (Millennials: born mid-1980s to early-1990s); and
4. Generation Z (Centennials: born mid-1990s to the mid-2000s).
A poll conducted by Ernst and Young LLP (EY) of London for the US Oil and Gas industry found that members of Gen Z have “fairly traditional” career priorities, however their values have been shaped by the nation’s struggles.
“When asked which three considerations are the most important in selecting a future career, both Millennials and Generation Z, as whole, prioritized salary (56%), good work-life balance (49%), job stability (37%), and on-the-job happiness (37%),” the EY survey reported.
Even though they are often clumped together with Millennials (Gen Y), recent research shows that the two generations are vastly different.
“Gen Z employees bring unique values, expectations, and perspectives to their jobs,” Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director at staffing firm Robert Half, stated in a news release. “They’ve grown up in economically turbulent times, and many of their characteristics and motivations reflect that.”
Move over Baby Boomers! You no longer are the largest proportion of the population of the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, Generation Z (AKA, iGen and Post Millennials) make up about 25% of the US population or approximately 70-million people. However, it is estimated that by 2021, Gen Z will total 40% of all consumers in the US and account for one-fifth of the workforce. This youngest generation is now entering the clinical laboratory workforce in growing numbers. (Graphic copyright: Oklahoma Minerals.)
Though Millennials represent the largest portion of the workforce in America, Gen Z is the largest population of people overall and it’s growing. The oldest members will have reached the age of 21 in 2016-2017. Many will be graduating from college and seeking employment opportunities.
Gen Z Members are Technically Savvy; Seek Job Security/Stability
Members of Gen Z are familiar and fluent with computers, technology, and the Web. Therefore, business websites and social media presence are things they will examine when researching companies for job opportunities. Living in a world of perpetual updates and real-time communications makes them quick at processing information. Centennials also tend to be first-rate multitaskers, capable of focusing while numerous distractions occur around them.
“This group of professionals has grown up with technology available to them around the clock and is accustomed to constant learning,” McDonald stated in the Robert Half news release. “Companies with a solid understanding of this generation’s values and preferences will be well prepared to create work environments that attract a new generation of employees and maximize their potential.”
Stability and job security seem to be more important for Gen Z than it is for Gen Y. A recent study by staffing firm Adecco found that 70% of Gen Z prefer a stable work environment over one that offers passion, but little security.
“They saw their grandparents have to go back to work or their parents have struggles during the financial crisis,” noted McDonald in a MarketWatch article. “They want to work for companies long-term in their career.”
Where millennials are known to change jobs frequently, a 2015 study conducted by Robert Half found that centennials plan to work for only four companies in their entire careers. The same study also found that Generation Z prefer to work in business office environments instead of working remotely.
Centennials are also more interested in the values and fairness of their bosses and the company mission statements. Equal pay, promotions, and accolades need to be equitable across all genders, races, and other differences. Generation Z is also entrepreneurial and creative and they desire to interact with people in person.
“Be prepared to spend time with them face to face,” McDonald stated. “They want to be mentored and coached. If you coach them, you’re going to retain them.”
Gen Z Politics are Mixed
Generation Z also differs from Millennials in the political arena. In a New York Post column, Jeff Brauer, Professor of Political Science at Keystone College in La Plume, Penn., indicated that Generation Z is liberal on some issues while being conservative on other issues.
“Politically, Generation Z is liberal-moderate with social issues like support for marriage, equality, and civil rights, and moderate-conservative with fiscal and security issues,” Brauer stated. “While many are not connected to the two major parties and lean independent, Gen Z’s inclinations generally fit moderate Republicans.”
Brauer’s research found that members of Gen Z tend to value economic stability and security higher than the previous generation because they have grown up in an era peppered with terror threats, a shaky economy, and mass school shootings.
“This generation is different, and they are about to have a profound impact on commerce, politics, and trends,” stated Brauer in the NY Post column. “If politicians and business leaders aren’t paying attention yet, they better, because [Centennials] are about to change the world.”
As Generation Z comes of age, more of them will be working in the medical professions. Clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups would be well advised to prepare their businesses by adjusting leadership, adapting recruiting efforts, and shifting marketing to attract Centennials and remain relevant and successful in the future.