Millennials seem to be the most talked-about generation lately, and they are a dynamic group to track. They are a huge population as well, making up 50 percent of the US workforce in 2020, and 75 percent globally by 2025. So as we focus on our promise to keep any customers’ data secure, particularly those in the healthcare industry, we pay particular attention to how this group's behavior can impact that goal.
To be sure, millennials are changing how healthcare information is obtained, used and changed. While it can force innovation and more connectedness to patients and their doctors, it can also challenge the privacy hospitals, clinics and physicians strive to maintain.
The upside is in their use of the internet to glean health information. Millennials often do a lot of homework in researching a diagnosis to provide care once they’ve left the doctor’s office. It also provides them with information to help them formulate questions on their condition to a healthcare professional. Of course, there’s a lot out there on the internet that is suspect, or even blatantly false, however it still can provide an opportunity for the physician to educate and explain what is inaccurate.
For healthcare providers, this tech-savvy group drives their own demand for software and technology solutions that can provide real-time, accessible and thorough information on their patients’ current health. With a patient group that does its share of comparison shopping, such tech offerings can keep hospitals and clinics competitive in drawing patients to their facilities.
Patients who do their own share of information gathering should also maintain a level of security on their own hardware, including their smartphones,, particularly with regard to search history. As marketing uses this already to provide comparable information in the form of paid posts that appear magically on the sidebar or pop ups of their cell phone or computer, in asking you are also telling. Clear your history and ensure any sites that require a registration are protected.
Sharing their information via forums is also a hallmark of the millennial. As much as people cringe at their propensity to want to share every moment of their day, in regard to challenging healthcare issues, it can be a great resource for support and other holistic suggestions to improve their health.
Physicians benefit, too, as patients who utilize support groups, whether online or in person, are mentally healthier, more communicative, and engage more in their own self-care. Outcomes are therefore better for patients, reducing hospital stays, which saves money for everyone along the continuum of care.
The risk comes in where patients share their medical and health information, and to what detail. Namely, social media poses a risk as people often start with much of their personal information known (name, birth date, address). When details on a health condition and who is treating them may also be shared via reviews, recommendations or comments, it can give someone enough to create a healthcare identity that goes undetected for some time, and be extremely difficult to fix.
The medical community already operates under strict HIPAA information sharing rules, and there are innumerable articles that address behavior on social for healthcare professionals. There is little to restrict patients, however, from voluntarily giving that information away. The relationship therefore between doctor and patient should include a conversation on what information to share and how in order to protect the patient’s privacy and security. While millennials are generally more active on social, this caveat also extends to seniors, who are increasingly turning to the internet and social media for healthcare information.
Finally, millennials are leading the charge for more transparency in pricing for their healthcare services. Generally, patients have received services and upon returning home, brace themselves for the bills to see what they end up owing. Conversely, this group is proactively cost-conscious, demanding to know what the bill will be before treatment. This is putting additional pressure on healthcare systems to be price competitive, and to do so, every column of the ledger is going to be scrutinized even more carefully.
IT departments feel this pressure as well, as the technology and computers they purchase and refresh, implement and maintain are expensive, but also in demand to deliver the most cutting edge technology, particularly in the surgical suite. Disposal of aging computers and technology to make way for the newest devices is a cost that can impact a hospital or clinic’s bottom line, limiting their ability to maintain high standards while providing competitive costs.
To that end, the role of connecting with a partner to mitigate or eliminate the costs of responsible recycling, data destruction and hardware disposal with the assurance of security and privacy is paramount. If you’re reading this, you have found such a resource. For no matter what the reigning opinion is of this generation, we’re grateful for the innovation that’s come about because of millennials. They are the directors of how everyone needs to do business, and will be for years to come.