A Millennial’s Message to the Medical Community
“You’re either with us or against us.”
It’s a saying as old as time. So, when I brought it up at work in the form of a healthcare technology conversation, I guess I wasn’t exactly sounding too original. And as a card-carrying member of the millennial generation, I’m all too aware of what some people say is our tendency to come off as whiners or people with an inflated sense of entitlement (it’s one of my biggest pet peeves!). But when it comes to how some in the medical profession choose to interact with my generation, that old saying couldn’t be more appropriate.
As a millennial working in healthcare IT, I guess I have an insider’s view when it comes to understanding the nuances of HIT. On one hand, I see the advances and opportunities offered to physicians in the 21st century, but I also see the complicated rift between “This is the way we’ve done it for years” and “How are we ever going to master all this technology stuff?” Let me go on record today as urging clinicians to go all-in on technology. To do otherwise, will be to slowly but surely alienate anyone born after 1985.
When it comes to choosing a physician, I never even consider those who:
- Still use a Gmail or Yahoo account when corresponding
- Aren’t utilizing a secure patient portal
- Make it difficult to schedule an appointment
- Have a low rating on review sites
- Don’t offer online bill pay
Let me tell you why.
My search for the perfect doctor began in 2014 when I was booted from my parents’ insurance. I bid farewell to my long-time pediatrician and hoped I wouldn’t need medical care any time soon. During flu season, WebMD and the Minute Clinic at CVS became my go-to healthcare services.
I’m not alone. According to a recent study, nearly a quarter of millennials don’t have active health insurance and I belong to the 73% of us that go online for medical advice before we even think about setting foot in a doctor’s office. A third of millennials who do decide to see a healthcare professional avoid traditional family medicine in favor of retail clinics. A little less than half of us turn to telemedicine.
While I thought I could put off signing up for health insurance, life had other plans and within a year, I had to become very familiar with terms like monthly premiums and prior authorization (to keep myself from falling into massive medical debt). Those familiar with the American education system know that “Navigating Healthcare 101” is not featured on the standard high school curriculum. I was overwhelmed, took to the internet, and counted on the advice of others to help me make an informed decision on a new insurance policy and a doctor that was covered by it.
Once I got settled in with my new doctor, I was sent to get bloodwork every 4 months and she insisted that I see a specialist on a quarterly basis (with regular follow up visits). At the same time, I was working two jobs and couldn’t just “get away” during normal office hours. Our compromise? Communication through the online patient portal.
I would get my results from the lab, share those results with my PCP, shoot a quick message to my specialist who would then decide if those results needed to be discussed in person (or if simply refilling my prescription at the same dose would do the trick). This whole process took me 10 to 15 minutes via her easy-to-use phone app. The alternative would have meant calling, sitting on hold, waiting for faxes (faxes…really?) and an hour of time that I’d never get back. As the saying goes, “time is money” and I’m flush with neither.
I can easily budget and pay my bills with my PCP’s online bill pay. I schedule my appointments (without going back and forth with a receptionist on what days and times will and won’t work) with the convenience of an online scheduler. I use the app to update my doctor with any new allergies that may crop up, and I religiously check on my lab results. While it may be a product of habit, or perhaps even a matter of convenience, I know for a fact that having the ability to chat with my doc and her team through an app is preferable to sitting on hold just to say that gluten and I don’t get along.
I’d submit to you today that I don’t live in a bubble. This is what my friends and I expect from our healthcare experience. The flexibility, transparency, and data security that properly implemented technology provides for those of us that have never known a life without easy access to a computer is invaluable to the future success of every independent medical practice. My relationship with my doctor has never been better (or closer). So why are 48% of patients still without access to an online patient portal?
Message to docs. Get with us or get out of the way.
Silas Clish is a marketing assistant for VertitechIT who specializes in digital media. He values nothing more than data security and his cat, Dax.