Today, Millennials do what they can to avoid dealing with the healthcare system—even those that actually have health insurance. Why? It’s expensive. It’s difficult to navigate. And they aren’t sick.
Ironically, the future of a sustainable healthcare system depends on the enrollment of young people. So it’s up to those in the industry to engage these individuals (who represent the large$t generation in history).
And while Millennials definitely don’t care about healthcare, they do care about their health. They could be great patients, if the system is designed with them in mind. The following are some ways to make it happen:
1. Stop referring to yourselves as “healthcare.”
The term brings to mind politics, paperwork, and surprise bills. “Wellness” is a little better – at least it speaks to what Millennials care about—but Oprah’s been on that tip for years. (Besides, “wellness” is for moms and Monday mornings, not Saturday night at a rager.)
Instead, find ways to talk about what healthcare is really doing: health insurance is “save-yourself-from-debt-care”, yearly physicals are “know-that-you’re-okay-care,” and visits to the clinic are about “clearing-up-that-STD-like-NOW-care.” Honing in on the purpose, experience, and implications for these patient’s real lives is necessary in order to make it relevant.
2. Get Superficial.
Millennials don’t have the cars, houses or jobs of prior generations. Instead, they have smartphones, selfies and social media. They’re a visual generation who skip between YouTube videos, the Kardashians and their own profile pages.
Think of this as your ticket to engage Millennials in their health. Help them make the connection with what’s happening inside their bodies with what they see in the mirror—or on Facebook. For the stuff that’s less obvious, find ways to translate the intangibles into visual progress. Promise them there’ll be a lot less untagging in their futures.
3. Address the stress.
Millennials have been called the “most stressed” generation—and because they believe that their mind is inextricably linked to their body, they can’t call themselves truly healthy when their mental state isn’t. Besides impacting cortisol levels and causing sleepless nights, stress also spurs unhealthy coping behaviors like smoking and drinking. It’s not that Millennials don’t know what to do to manage stress—that's what yoga's for—but only 29% are doing it well (according to the American Psychological Association).
So how to help them decrease stress? Leverage the proclivity of Millennials to communicate in 140 characters or less, in order to understand the root causes. And take some shit off their plates. “If my insurance company really wanted help me get healthy, they would schedule appointments for me.”
4. Accept referrals from Dr. Google.
When Millennials think they’re sick, they pull out their phones and Google their symptoms (and depending on what they find, might then call their moms). Self-directed medical research is convenient, cheap, and can be highly personalized. But searches online often result in individuals cherry-picking information according to what they want to hear or solving a problem they don’t actually have.
The problem is, Millennials don’t necessarily think a medical degree makes you more knowledgeable about what’s right for them. They know how they feel. So, rather than rolling your eyes at someone who insists they’re suffering from OCD, respect their perspective and try to figure out why—or pull out your tablet and collaborate to figure out what’s the right course of action for them.
5. Make $ense.
You may have read the Time magazine article about the cost of healthcare. Millennials know it first hand. It’s not unusual, these days, to see a Facebook post fundraising for sky-high medical bills. And a brief perusal of an itemized medical bill will show it’s not the life-saving surgery that drives up costs, but the $60 pillow—and that’s a tough pill to swallow for a group that believes that healthcare is a right.
I mean, how can you look someone in the face and tell them that the pill they just took cost fifteen dollars? On one hand, you could give them a choice before they take it. On the other, you could help them understand they’re swallowing the biological equivalent of an iPhone. As for the $60 pillow—come on, guys. There’s no excuse for that.
This post originally appeared on Medium.