From quick care to social media, millennials shaping healthcare industry in Northern Nevada and beyond
Editor’s note:This is the fourth and final installment in a four-part series of stories tied to the NNBV’s September-October focus on the business of health care. Click here for part 1: Increasing cases of depression, substance abuse forcing Nevada employers to up mental health support Click here for part 2: Modern day medicine: Reno-Tahoe hospitals increase alternative, integrative options to meet demand Click here for part 3: Blockchain technology on the brains of healthcare industry, but is it viable? ==========
By the numbers
27: Percent of millennials will self-treat at home
50: Percent of millennials will research symptoms and treatments online before consulting a doctor
56: Percent of millennials visited a primary care physician in the last year
58: Percent of millennials said they trust their doctors
127: Percent increase in urgent care locations in the U.S. since 2010
Sources: Communispace, Convenient Care Association, GreyHealth Group
RENO, Nev. — They’re the largest group of consumers in the United States. They have a purchasing power of more than $200 billion annually. And they’re currently in their prime spending years.
They’re millennials — and they’re not just driving trends, they’re shaping the economy as a whole.
The $3 trillion healthcare industry is no exception.
“I think millennials are a very powerful force,” said Dr. Anthony Slonim, president and CEO of Renown Health, who’s noticed millennials’ growing influence both in the hospital and at home. “I have two of them as children. And you can tell by the kinds of questions they ask about their healthcare that they want an experience that is very different than what my generation might have wanted.”
Arguably at the heart of millennials’ healthcare shopping experience is efficiency and convenience. In fact, according to HIT Consultant, millennials are going to retail clinics (34 percent) and acute care clinics (24 percent) to save time.
In response to the trend, the number of retail and urgent care locations has surged by 127 percent across the country since 2010, according to the Convenient Care Association.
Renown Health has been part of that rise in quick care offerings. Renown, which has 10 urgent care locations across Northern Nevada, has opened up seven in the past decade, including an urgent care through telehealth technology in Tonopah that opened this year.
The healthcare network has also adapted to the on-demand demographic with online wait times, online bookings and even virtual visits with an urgent care medical provider.
“If you want to get the majority of the care — and we don’t recommend this — in urgent care, you can do that,” Dr. Slonim said. “Because it’s kind of that quick, in-the-moment care. And we’ve responded by making it technologically-enabled to be convenient.”
Additionally, playing a role in the younger generation’s penchant for quick care is the fact that many millennials aren’t interested in having a relationship with a primary care physician, Dr. Slonim said.
“The primary care doctor helps them to navigate complexities of the healthcare system. But millennials, for the most part, don’t want that gatekeeping function,” he said.
Tiffany Coury, chief operating officer at Northern Nevada Medical Center (NNMC) in Sparks, feels many millennials simply don’t realize the importance of establishing a primary care doctor.
“I think we need to do a better job, as a healthcare industry, on educating the millennial generation of the benefits,” she said, “because it does aid in speed of access and convenience.”
Not helping matters, though, is the fact that there is an increasing shortage in primary care physicians, said Kevin Riddleberger, chief strategy officer at Dispatch Health.
Located in seven U.S. markets, including Las Vegas, Dispatch Health is a provider of mobile healthcare.
The numbers back it up. A study done by the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortfall of between 14,800 and 49,300 primary care physicians by 2030.
Narrowing in on Nevada, the Silver State ranks 48th nationwide for active primary care doctors per 100,000 residents, according to the Physicians Workforce in Nevada 2018 report, produced by the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine.
“That’s a problem with our health care industry in the U.S., we’re starting to see a lack of providers going into primary care,” Riddleberger said. “The access to having that primary care is not great right now, and it’s easier for people to just get their acute medical needs meet.”
As a result, the younger generation is not only bypassing primary care doctors for quick care, they’re also using the Internet as a primary tool for making their healthcare decisions, whether it’s through self-diagnosing with WebMD or poring over hospital and physician ratings and reviews.
“Millennials want a lot of data and a lot of information technologically delivered so that they can make their own informed choices,” Dr. Slonim said.
All told, roughly half of all millennials research symptoms and treatments online before consulting a doctor, according to Communispace, and 27 percent will self-treat at home and never set foot in a doctor’s office.
This points to an unquantifiable factor when it comes to millennials and healthcare: trust.
After all, having endured the Great Recession, record-setting levels of student debt, and more recently, a controversial presidential election, millennials are more apt to raise an eyebrow at institutions and authority.
Physicians aren’t immune to that lull in trust. In a study conducted by GreyHealth Group and Kantar Health, only 58 percent of millennials said they trust their doctors, compared to 73 percent of all other generations.
“It’s important to be able to develop that trust within a healthcare system in the younger population,” Riddleberger said. “Because if you develop that trust … and they start having a family, they’re essentially inside that system. It really helps the long-term value of that patient for that healthcare system.”
About five years ago, Northern Nevada Medical Center decided it needed to connect with its patients and future patients in a space millennials constantly occupied: social media.
“They get their information in very different ways,” Coury said. “So we’re having to shift the way that we market, shift the way that we educate. Social media has been a huge kind of reinvention, if you will, to make sure that we use that platform to educate, to get good reviews out there, to post research articles, and help them formulate some questions.”
Dr. Slonim has his own Twitter account and tweets almost daily; one day promoting a Renown event like “Walk with a Doc” at the Sparks Marina, another sharing a research article on — fittingly — why a strong patient-doctor relationship matters.
Like other Northern Nevada healthcare providers, Renown also makes sure that they’re focusing on reaching and connecting with every generation, not just the one that happens to currently be shaping the economy.
“I think the real goal is to be addressing the interest of your constituencies because there’s a lot of them with different ways that they want to be communicated with,” Slonim said. “And that’s not always easy. Some would say pick a cohort. Our job is to care for everybody, so the way we try to do that is to be sensitive to diversity and making sure we’re hitting the mark.”
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.