Those counted in Generation Z are seven to 22 years old in 2019 (born 1997–2012). What’s different about them as compared to Millennials, now 22 to 37 years old (born 1981–1996), is that they’re truly the first generation with constant access to mobile devices from the time they began to learn and communicate. They came of age just as the adults in their lives began their near-constant use of technology. Gen Zers actions, requests, and demands will drive change in healthcare in the next decade as they become the majority in workforce numbers and in total spending power.
Whether you interact with Gen Zers as an employer/colleague, provider, or billing company, the following may provide insight into their work habits, healthcare consumption, and billing preferences. Of course, the flip side of analyzing any entire generation based on limited surveys is that the predictions must be taken in perspective.
- 55% of Gen Z can’t go more than five hours without Internet access before becoming uncomfortable—27% can’t go for more than an hour.
As providers, employees, and colleagues: Their workflow must be digital in nature. Paper/hardcopy will be a nonstarter for hiring them or for use in any part of the work function (credentialing and verification applications). Supervisors and leaders should think twice before banishing their beloved technology, because the chances are, they’ll find a faster and better way to do things digitally if allowed. When working with Millennials and Gen Z providers, it’s also important for provider colleagues to emphasize how vital verbal communication and touch are for patients, especially baby boomer patients, said Linda S. Edelman, PhD, RN, associate professor at University of Utah College of Nursing and author of the Journal of Nurse Management paper. Gen Z also has the highest aspiration to entrepreneurship of any generation and is also the first generation to express an interest in building a tech business over retail, the preference of all other generations. Employers already experiencing employee shortages may find the problem becoming more acute, especially in industries that have fallen behind the curve with digitization and technology.
- Members of Gen Z (44%) are more likely than members of any other generation to provide their personal data if it means they’ll receive a more personalized digital experience over an anonymous one. As patients and customers: More than just providing convenience and speed, the digital experience they seek in applying for a job or working once hired is expected to be custom and personal. No one size fits all database or internet experience will do. The technology they use and create should know all about them and the tasks they must complete, and provide feedback specifically for their role/user experience. It’ll be predictive technology, meaning it’s capable of discovering and analyzing patterns in data so that past behavior can be used to forecast likely future behavior. It’ll be push technology generated by the system, rather than requiring human intervention to seek it out. Interestingly, 72% of Gen Z worry that their online actions will affect their careers, and 52% believe that Internet use will tell as much about a person as their credit score. Still, they appear willing to fork over their personal data amid all of the technology breaches.
- Gen Zers are more dissatisfied with traditional healthcare providers than older consumers, especially regarding transparency issues, customer service, and convenience. 18% of Gen Zers said they were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the efficiency of operations like billing, compared with just 8% of baby boomers who said the same. As providers, patients, and customers: The trend underway toward billing transparency regardless of healthcare facility type visited (urgent care, acute, retail clinic) will continue, as Gen Z demands “menu” type pricing. As providers, they will seek full control over managing their own data (e.g., CAQH) because they view online updates as an easy task. This may be a welcome change for credentialers and PE specialists exasperated by trying to maintain the address changes and other demographics of older physicians today. In their role as patients, Gen Z will use digital health offerings in the form of telemedicine; and online appointment booking and reminders will become must-have features for any provider office.
- The geography and mobility of Gen Zers differ from earlier generations. Reflecting broader national trends, Gen Zers overwhelmingly live in metro as opposed to rural areas. Only 13% of post-Millennials are in rural areas, compared with 18% of Millennials in 2002. By comparison, 23% of Gen Xers lived in rural areas when they were ages 6 to 21, as did 36% of early Boomers. When it comes to mobility, Americans aren’t moving as much as they once did, and Gen Z is adhering to the trend of staying put—at least for now as they are still primarily under 21 years of age.
Gen Z is highly confident and adept at interacting with technology and the online world in a way that no previous generation has been. It’s instinct to them. The changes they bring as patients, credentialers, and providers will be light years ahead of anything we can imagine in 2019.