There’s been some real disruption to the healthcare status quo in recent years and much of that change is in anticipation of millennial utilization. This on-demand, tech-savvy generation, now comprising the largest population segment in the country, is a driving force in redefining our healthcare practices.

Millennials contribute about 21 percent of total healthcare spending and this will only continue to grow as they age. The oldest millennials are creeping up on 40 and are influencing significant change in healthcare as they make care decisions for themselves, their children, and even their aging parents. Studies have also shown a troubling trajectory for millennials — a health decline that exceeds that of previous generations. If we as an industry hope to reverse this trend, there’s some urgency to engaging millennials now for proactive, preventive care.

[Related reading: Forecast Predicts Millennial Health Shock]

Now is the time to heed the demands of the millennial generation

As the generation who grew up with almost everything available at the click of a mouse or touch of a smart screen, millennials are demanding convenience, value, affordability, and exceptional service. Healthcare entities that make this shift will ultimately experience more customer loyalty, a growing patient base, and future financial growth. This is all being driven by the generation that has grown up with the internet, mobile phones, quick and easy apps, and 24/7 access to just about everything.

Think Amazon.

In fact, a new report was recently released focusing on the healthcare consumer experience, “How Millennials Are Reshaping Healthcare’s Future.” (Kaufman Hall) The findings confirm that with more choices than ever before via neighborhood retail clinics, telehealth, and urgent care facilities, traditional primary care providers, hospitals, and health systems must shift from a provider-centric to a consumer-centric model to address healthcare for a new generation.

To keep up with the growing demand for a model of care that is focused on the needs of the patient and not the healthcare system, an increasing number of primary care providers now offer extended office hours, are open on weekends, and communicate with patients via a patient portal and email for routine concerns. Some providers have also begun to offer telemedicine, answering the call for greater access.

But are these changes enough?

Those hospital systems and traditional providers who are not jumping on the convenience bandwagon will soon find themselves left behind. Interestingly, a growing number of millennials don’t even have a PCP. They rely on their local retail clinic or urgent care center as well as the increasing popularity of telehealth for minor ailments that can be cared for quickly.

This is why retail clinics are flourishing. These healthcare entities are popping up all over the country, addressing the 24/7 on-demand culture of the millennial generation. From Walgreens and CVS to the grocer, Kroger, and retail giant Walmart, a new primary care model is emerging in response to this generation’s needs. Millennials now have choices — they can wait days or even months to get an appointment to see their primary care physician, or they can walk into any neighborhood clinic for quality, immediate healthcare when they need it.

[Related Reading: Consumer Demand for Healthcare Convenience Paves the Way for Retailers]

In the on-the-go lifestyles of millennials, it’s about getting the highest quality care in the least amount of time for the best value. It’s no longer about just establishing a long-term relationship with a doctor, because technology has connected people in so many new ways, virtually redefining the patient-provider relationship.

Accessibility, affordability, convenience, and patient engagement through technology — these are the keys to the kingdom and how millennials are ushering in a new era of healthcare. 

Our Take: The millennial generation’s call for convenient, accessible care and greater value is reshaping the healthcare industry as we know it.  Health systems, hospitals, and traditional providers must adapt and move toward a more patient-centric, on-demand model of care in order to thrive, survive, and compete with the growing number of retail clinics that are clearly in tune with the needs of the country’s largest healthcare consumers. Not heeding these new demands will undoubtedly have serious consequences for those providers slow to adjust.