Most people think of millennials as young college kids, the reality is that this generation is maturing. Millennials now make up about 25% of workforce in America and 50% of the global workforce.

Over 40% of millennials are parents and most of them live in the metropolitan areas. Having grown up in a time of rapid change, millennials have a different worldview, priorities and expectations from their health benefits at work than the other generations.

The health profile of millennials vary from other generations due to demographics. One key difference is high prevalence of stress and depression, especially in women. Despite being an eclectic group, here are a list of 5 expectations most millennials have from their musculoskeletal (MSK) benefits:

1. Convenience

Millennials have grown up in a world that emphasizes convenience. They don’t appreciate taking time off work to drive to specific locations at specific hours on the specific days of the week, just to get basic health care. They have been raised to think about how fast, efficient and available everything is, which is the opposite of our healthcare delivery system.

In the area of pain management, millennials expect that when they experience musculoskeletal pain or minor injury, they are able to connect with the right specialists instantly over messaging, video or phone – who can provide early management advice and guidance on next steps. They don’t want to go to a clinic just to ask a simple question or pay to have someone watch them exercise.

Millennials don’t appreciate doctor-centric world built around episodic in-person scheduled appointments weeks in advance, and rather expect a continuous connected experience with their clinicians for pain management – an experience that includes video visits, asynchronous messaging, app-guided exercises and remote monitoring to help them heal faster to get back to the things they love.

2. Choices

Millennials like to shop. They are used to conducting research and making their own decisions. This gives them a sense of control and independence. One example is movie streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon prime video. These services derive most of their revenue from millennials by providing them a choice to choose from thousands of movies and programs anytime they want at home or anywhere else.

Millennials expect a system that provides online access to information about symptoms, treatment effectiveness, cost of care and plan coverage – at the same time. However unlike most consumer categories, they find that the care delivery system for pain management is highly opaque, fragmented and antiquated. The data on treatment effectiveness or provider efficiency is sketchy at best. This makes ‘shopping’ for healthcare a cumbersome experience.

3. Value

Unfortunately most millennials have only experienced barriers to care such as high deductibles in their health benefits. They delay treatment and management of their health conditions often due to cost. That’s one reason where 40% of them don’t even have a primary care provider.

While we have recently seen examples of fast paced innovations in health care, shockingly not much has changed yet in the provider payments, despite enormous pressure from CMS, ACA and other industry groups. The cost of medical services remains high with no correlation to value.

Millennials are highly engaged consumers and are more likely than previous generations to review and request up front cost estimates. Given that healthcare services are billed after the visit (fee for service with managed care discounts) in United States, the rough estimates provided by transparency tools have often been misleading for most musculoskeletal treatments.

The rapid adoption of retail clinics, and Telehealth by millennials clearly demonstrates that they are more than ready to shift away from traditional expensive, in-person, 10-minutes appointment-based world, for most of their primary care needs. The same is true when it comes to musculoskeletal pain and minor injuries. For example, for most pains, strains, sprains and minor injuries, virtual physical therapy is fast becoming a preferred model of care for pain management.

4. Digital-first, on-demand care

Millennials want access to care just like they want access to other services —”on demand.” They spend most of their waking hours on multiple digital smart devices, are more likely to turn to digital resources first and prefer the ability to use digital as a front door into physical or other interaction models of care for pain management. They see traditional physicians as a “last resort” rather than the first line of defense for non-critical healthcare needs.

Millennials expect technology to help them better manage their health with tools like self-care and personalized recommendations. Specifically in musculoskeletal (msk) care, they prefer a digital delivery platform for pain management across the entire care continuum, from preventive, acute, chronic to pre/post operative rehab. This includes scheduling appointments on an app, to virtual visits, to accessing medical records online, to receiving post-care results virtually.

For complex needs, millennials prefer a multi-dimensional care model led by digital-first approach that provides a balance between both in-person visits and digital care.

5. Personalized care

Millennials represent one of the most ethnically and racially diverse generations, an attribute that underscores their impact across socio-economic, cultural and political lines. They expect benefits and a healthcare experience that reflects how they interact with the world around them. With 44% belonging to a minority group, the one-size-fit-all models of care and benefit designs require serious identity-inclusive redesign.

An effective personalized pain management approach takes a journey centric approach across behavioral, clinical and social needs and brings together physical therapy, behavioral support and education – to manage discomfort, improve function, and boost overall health and wellbeing.

In addition, millennials want their company’s benefit teams to serve a more prominent role in connecting them to healthcare providers as well as other health and non-health related resources.

The cost curve is rapidly changing. Health plans and employers slow to address the specific healthcare needs of millennials are being hammered by a dramatic rise in musculoskeletal costs. New tools and resources are required to contain these costs. Organizations can provide high-quality musculoskeletal care to their people by partnering with companies specializing in digital musculoskeletal care. The right partner can help them customize their benefit strategy to their specific workforce and overall business objectives.

Sprite Health’s digital program for musculoskeletal pain management provides a single point of access for all MSK conditions, across the entire MSK continuum. Our virtual physical therapy services provide a more affordable and convenient way to prevent and treat MSK pain. Chronic pain management provides an evidence-based, digital program for chronic joint and back pain that includes personalized exercise therapy, behavioral health support, education & guidance.

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