Employee WellnessHealthcare

Millennials and Health Engagement: Why Social, Mobile, & Gamification Is Crucial

They’re the twenty to thirty somethings that advertisers and businesses watch carefully. They’re top consumers, earliest adopters of social media, and most at-risk for substance abuse, mental illness, unintended pregnancy, eating disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases.

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They comprise 36% of the workforce, and by 2020, they’ll make up over half of the workforce, so what they do is duly noted.

What do they want?

They want more. And despite being the generation that uses healthcare services the least, they’re demanding more from their healthcare providers and wellness initiatives at work.

They know more. They research and tap their social media resources when looking for answers or advice on medical issues, brands, and other purchase recommendations. They’re the ones that rate physicians on Yelp.com or Healthgrades.com. They’ll search Youtube and HealthCare.gov to find out how to bandage a wound, brace a sprained ankle, or identify a sexually transmitted disease. They’ll pick each other’s brains in health forums.

And while they’re savvy researchers on their own, they want personal relationships with their health providers–through technology.

Technology Rules the Day

Millennials are the device masters. They have fitness and health apps to track their diet, sleep, nutrition, and exercise ,and they’re fluent in many mobile devices. They trust technology implicitly. Telemedicine was made for them.

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What’s more, they’re totally out there about their experiences, achievements, successes, and failures. They’re transparent to their network of social connections and are social media creatures, in general. They like when their achievements are recognized publicly.

Given who they are, healthcare professionals, employers, and insurers must engage this group largely through innovative approaches to health–like digital apps that catch them where they are, mobile in their daily lives.

They’ve Got Game

Not only are they quick, convenient, and portable, mobile apps keep the Millennial on target by gamifying healthy habits through tracking apps that earn rewards for progress, peer-to-peer and team challenges, and milestone achievements along the way. This group is into stats and quantifiables, knowing where they stand in the health “game.” They’re competitors, and the numbers keep score to tell their story.

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Apps that connect with their social media accounts, Fitbits, smartwatches, and other wearables, allow this self-disclosing age group to report their health and fitness journey to an audience, which encourages support and accountability among followers and friends. Health is a shared life experience and endeavor.

Fitness trackers like Fitbit not only tally activity results, like steps, floors, miles, and any exercise the user engages in, but allows users to improve their health with friends and family through leaderboard rankings and badges earned. Health fun and convenience appeal to Millennials’ physical and emotional well being.

Convenience Poses Challenges

This is also the group most likely to fill out forms online prior to visits or share their symptoms, treatment, and emotional problems in forums or on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Tapping into those sources seems like an effective way for providers to encourage healthier behaviors and even manage chronic illness in this population.

However, reimbursement for social media communication and treatment presents difficulties. Most insurance companies won’t reimburse social media interactions, though that may be changing in the near future. And how does a doctor record social media generated health information, say in Instagram photos or Vine videos? Traditional health care record keeping doesn’t work.

And then there’s the privacy and professionalism issues. How do physicians protect patient privacy and maintain the requisite professionalism in a casual environment, such as most social media outlets? Should doctors accept friend requests from their patients?

In the End Everyone Wins

So what does all this Millennial social, mobile, and gamification health engagement mean for health providers? Better results. Patients get healthier, and data collectors, like insurance companies and physicians, get data that contributes to the wellbeing of Millennials and the growing database of all patients with illness and health goals.

So long as insurers, employers, and healthcare workers are willing to meet them on their turf, Millennials provide both challenges and opportunities for documenting, discovering, and promoting better health outcomes. The healthcare industry would be wise to adapt to their world.