Jul 12 2018
Patient-Centered Care

As Millennials Come to Expect Telehealth, Organizations Make the Shift Toward Virtual Care

Incorporating remote care options now could future proof organizations as consumer appetites for services shift.

Tech-savvy millennials are taking over: They now make up the largest group in the U.S. and its workforce, and their demands for more tech-focused care alternatives could be changing the healthcare sector as well — in particular, when it comes to telehealth.

While telemedicine may seem like a relatively new revolution in the healthcare sector, a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, conducted in fall 2017 and released in March 2018, has found that millennials prioritize telehealth above other generations and view it as a key part of their care.

In fact, 40 percent of millennials — the generation born between 1981 and 1997 — report in the survey that telehealth is an “extremely or very important option” when it comes to their care. This is a huge jump over the generations before them: Only 27 percent of Gen Xers and 19 percent of baby boomers ranked telemedicine equally as important.

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Healthcare Organizations Adopt and Train Physicians for Telemedicine

This move toward telehealth as an important aspect of the care ecosystem is paired with millennials’ move away from more traditional medical practices, such as relationships with primary care physicians. Moreover, millennials are more likely to research plans and doctors prior to a visit or seek out alternative ways to access care.

This generational move toward remote care is paired with a growing acceptance of telehealth across the board. While a large portion of people in the U.S. say they might not jump at the chance to schedule a virtual visit for their next consultation, 57 percent of those surveyed in a recent Business Insider Intelligence Insurance Technology Study say they could be convinced.

With attitudes changing about telehealth and future generations likely to expect the service, the question becomes not if providers should implement virtual care options, but when and how — and how they can make these services profitable.

Several organizations have already moved to incorporate telehealth into their central services, including Penn Medicine, which offers telemedicine in several branches of care and manages it all through a central telehealth hub.

“You can use telemedical care in post-op care; you can use it in end-of-life care,” Dr. William Hanson III, Penn Medicine’s chief medical information officer, told HealthTech in a previous article. “There are a lot of ways in which telemedicine can really significantly change the way that we care for patients today, and the technology gets better and better every year in terms of the fidelity of transmission.”

In preparation for this transition to more virtual care options, training in telemedicine is on the rise. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 84 medical schools included telemedicine as a topic in required or elective courses in the 2016–17 academic year, up from 57 institutions in 2013–14.

While training and adoption are up, however, the authors of the Employee Benefit Research Institute Study warn that millennial appetites for virtual care could change along with their health needs.

"An open question is whether the way millennials engage with the healthcare system changes as they age and as a higher percentage of them move away from being dependents on their parents' plans,” the study’s authors say, MobiHealthNews reports. “Millennials may answer questions one way today because of their current life stage, but that may change in the future."

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