Zoomers’ unique approach to work and personal health could affect clinical laboratory workplaces, how staff is managed, and how they personally use lab tests
Would it surprise you to learn that Generation Z is poised to make up 75% of the workforce in the United States by 2025? This fact has many implications for clinical laboratories, genetic testing companies, and pathology practices. That’s because Zoomers, as they are called, will be dominant in two ways. First, they will make up the majority of the lab workforce. Second, they will be the majority of consumers and patients accessing medical laboratory testing services.
Zoomers (born 1997-2012) approach work and their own healthcare differently than previous generations. This is partly due to Zoomers being “digital natives who have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones,” according to Pew Research.
Now, a recently released report by economic research firm Glassdoor on 2024 workplace trends states that Zoomers are about to overtake Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) in the full-time workforce, and that the shift will “represent a pivotal moment of cultural change that US companies cannot ignore.” This includes clinical laboratories and pathology groups that employ them.
According to Glassdoor, Gen Z workers “care deeply about community connections, about having their voices heard in the workplace, about transparent and responsive leadership, and about diversity and inclusion.”
Zoomers bring unique requirements and attitudes to the workplace, but they may also be the fresh infusion of talent a shrinking healthcare workforce needs. It’s no secret that clinical laboratories and pathology groups are facing a labor shortage. An aging workforce combined with burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic have left the entire healthcare industry scrambling for workers.
In “Clinical Laboratories Suffer During the Great Resignation,” Dark Daily noted other causes that are behind the abundance of open positions, such as early retirements, graduating individuals experiencing more specialized training programs, and a shift in the way the current working generation views employment.
Thus, the current healthcare workplace should not only expect unique challenges as Zoomers take over, but also changes that come with adapting to a smaller, younger workforce.
“[Gen Z] will pressure employers to establish a company’s purpose in a way that contributes to a better society and prioritize a company’s purpose along with profits,” Mark Beal (above), Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Communication at Rutgers University, told Forbes. “Having succeeded at remote learning, they will influence an increased transition to hybrid and remote work as well as the four-day work week.” Clinical laboratories that understand Zoomers’ motivations will likely have more success integrating them into their workforce. (Photo copyright: Rutgers University.)
However, there could be unique challenges with a Zoomer workforce as well. According to Forbes, more than half of these new workers are willing to leave their jobs over “dissatisfaction with fulfillment (59%), professional development (57%), and providing value (53%).”
Although this may make some older workers scoff, each generation has entered the workforce with its own unique perspective based on personal values, and the workplace has shifted and changed to reflect the new workers. The same can be said of the clinical laboratory and pathology workforces.
The chart above shows the different generations as a proportion of the total population of the United States as of 2025. It dramatically illustrates why the largest number of working age individuals will be from Generation Z (aka, Zoomers). With their unique interests and traits, Zoomers will want their workplaces to be responsive in ways that are much different than the generations that preceded them. This will be equally true of how Gen Z accesses clinical laboratory testing services. (Graphic copyright: The Wall Street Journal.)
Gen Z Likes Automation
Another aspect to the increasing Zoomer workforce is Gen Z’s comfort with automated technology. Automation has always shifted how clinical laboratories work, and it can have great benefits for clinical pathology as well.
According to Today’s Clinical Lab, automation reduces error rates by more than 70% and reduces the time needed for each staff member per specimen by 10%.
However, the benefit does not come from automation replacing workers, rather that automated processes reduce repetitive work that takes time and attention away from workers. And, as noted, Gen Z workers tend to be extremely tech-savvy given the prevalence of technology in their lives.
Automation could fill gaps when it comes to labor shortages, not by replacing workers, but by helping adjust the workflow and avoiding worker burnout by automating tedious tasks. And Gen Z workers may be uniquely suited to engage with automated testing technologies.
Evolving Healthcare Workplaces
“The coming year will … represent a pivotal moment of cultural change that US companies cannot ignore as Gen Z workers—who care deeply about community connections, about having their voices heard in the workplace, about transparent and responsive leadership, and about diversity and inclusion—make up a rapidly growing share of the workforce,” the Glassdoor report stated, adding that 2024 “will test the robustness of workplace institutions,” The Hill reported.
Clinical laboratory managers and pathologists will be managing a multi-generational workforce, each with its own attributes and requirements. Thus, lab managers will need to reflect these difference in the management decisions they make and how they organize the laboratory workplace.
Demand for low cost, convenient access to doctors and drugs is driving transformation to decentralized medical care, and retail pharmacy chains see opportunity in offering primary care services
Retail pharmacies and pharmacists continue to play a growing role in healthcare as consumer demand for lower cost and convenience pushes the nation’s medical landscape away from centralized healthcare systems. Clinical laboratories have seen this in the increasing trend of consumers seeking vaccinations and home-health tests at their local drug stores.
Results of a pair of surveys dubbed “Pharmacy Next” conducted by Wolters Kluwer Health revealed that 58% of people are now willing to be treated for non-emergency healthcare conditions in non-traditional medical environments, such as retail pharmacies and clinics.
This is a finding that clinical laboratory managers and pathologists should incorporate into their labs’ strategic planning. It portends a shift in care away from the traditional primary care clinic—typically located in the campus around the community hospital—and toward retail pharmacies. Labs will want to capture the test referrals originating from the primary care clinics located in retail pharmacies.
This willingness to access medical care in non-traditional environments is especially true among people in Generation Y (Millennials) and Generation Z (Zoomers)—people born between 1981-1996 (Gen Y) and 1997-2012 (Gen Z), according to Journey Matters.
“As we saw in last year’s survey, primary care decentralization is continuing—the traditional one doctor-one patient, single point of coordination is vanishing, and this is especially evident in younger generations,” said Peter Bonis, MD, Wolters Kluwer’s Chief Medical Officer, in a press release.
The online surveys of more than 2,000 US adults was weighted by age, gender, household income, and education to be representative of the entire population of the United States.
“By preparing for this shift today, providers can work in concert across care sites to deliver the best care to patients,” said Peter Bonis, MD, Wolters Kluwer Health Chief Medical Officer, in a press release. “Likewise, newer care delivery models, like retail pharmacies and clinics, can ensure they’re ready to meet the expectations of healthcare consumers, who will increasingly be turning to them for a growing range of care needs.” Clinical laboratories may find new revenue opportunities working with the primary care clinics operating within local retail pharmacists and clinicians. (Photo copyright: Wolters Kluwer.)
Key Findings of the Wolters Kluwer Pharmacy Next Studies
Some key insights of the surveys include:
Care is rapidly decentralizing with 58% stating they are likely to visit a local pharmacy for non-emergency medical care.
Younger generations are signaling lasting change within the industry as they are more open to non-traditional styles of care.
61% of respondents envision most primary care services being provided at pharmacies, retail clinics, or pharmacy clinics within the next five years. Of the respondents, 70% of Millennials, 66% of Gen Z, 65% of Gen X, and 43% of Baby Boomers believe this transition will occur.
Consumers are worried about prescription costs and availability.
92% of respondents said physicians and pharmacists should inform patients of generic options.
59% of surveyed consumers have concerns about drug tampering and theft when it involves mail order or subscription prescription services.
One in three respondents believe convenience is more important than credentials in non-emergency situations.
The survey indicates that healthcare consumers across multiple generations are open to a shift in some medical services from doctors to pharmacists. However, there were some notable differences between generations.
Respondents of the Baby Boomer (55%) and Gen X (57%) generations stated they would trust a physician assistant with medication prescriptions, while only 42% of Gen Z and 47% of Millennial respondents felt the same way.
Additionally, Boomers (57%) and Gen X (67%) said they would feel comfortable with a nurse practitioner issuing their prescriptions, while only 44% of Gen Z and 53% of Millennials said they would.
Increased Comfort with Genetic Testing at Pharmacies
Overall, 68% of individuals polled believe their individual genomic data could guide prescription decisions, with Millennials (77%) and Gen Z (74%) being the primary believers. Additionally, 88% of respondents stated they see an incentive for health insurers to cover genomic testing, and 72% said they would be open to genetic testing for personalized medical care.
But pharmacists and clinicians should be aware that advancing pharmacogenomics will require addressing privacy concerns. According to the Wolters Kluwer study, 57% of Gen Z and 53% of Millennials have apprehension surrounding genetic testing due to privacy risks, with 35% of Gen X and Boomers holding that same opinion.
Healthcare Staff Shortages, Drug Cost a Concern
Survey respondents are also concerned about pharmacy staff shortages and expenditures when seeking care at a pharmacy. Half of the participants are worried they will receive the wrong medication, half worry about getting the incorrect dosage, and almost half (47%) fear receiving the wrong directions due to overburdened pharmacy employees.
More people in Gen Z (59%) and Millennials (60%) had these concerns compared to Gen X (44%) and Boomers (38%).
Sadly, a distressing 44% of those surveyed admitted to not filling a prescription due to the costs. That number jumps to a staggering 56% among individuals with no health insurance, compared to 42% for insured patients.
“From hospitals to doctors’ offices, from pharmacies to pharma and beyond, healthcare must move to more affordable and accessible primary care models, adopt innovations that help deliver more personalized care, and address persistent safety and cost concerns that consumers have about their medications,” said Bonis in the press release.
Can Pharmacies Deliver Primary Care as Well as Doctor’s Offices?
Pharmacies may be logical setting for at least some non-emergency health services. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 90% of the US population live within five miles of a pharmacy and about 72% of visits to physician’s offices involve the prescribing and monitoring of medication therapies.
“We’re not talking about complicated services. We’re talking low-acuity, very basic care,” said Anita Patel, PharmD, Vice President of Pharmacy Services Development for Walgreens, at the HIMSS conference.
Pharmacies across the country continue to add more healthcare services to their available public offerings. This trend will likely persist into the future as healthcare becomes more expensive, wait times for physician appointments increases, and medical staff shortages rise. Thus, there may be opportunities for clinical laboratories to support pharmacists and doctors working in retail settings.