I was recently talking about the state of health care with the nephew of a good friend. “Jake” is a millennial and sports enthusiast. He competes in Jiu-Jitsu and works out at a Cross Fit “box.” Last year, during a Jiu-Jitsu tournament, Jake suffered a tear in his quad as well as an injury to his MCL (medial collateral ligament).

He went to see an orthopedist who recommended surgery. This option did not sit well with Jake, particularly because a friend recently had the same procedure and was not pleased with the outcome.

Jake turned his attention to finding other options; he began to visit various websites as well as sports rehabilitation blogs. Since he suffered an injury common among athletes – both pro and amateur – there was a great deal of information to review.

Applying his research, Jake developed his own physical rehabilitation plan. Although there was a bit of trial and error, he was able to put together an exercise and rehabilitation regimen that has allowed him to get back to his active lifestyle and he is now largely pain-free.

When I learned of Jake’s story, I realized this is how millennials (those ages 18-34) will change health care as we know it. Tech savvy consumers like Jake expect instant gratification and they want to drive their health care decisions. They are a demographic that has grown up with technology and information at their fingertips. In fact, more than 54 percent of millennials said they search online for health information before seeing a physician, that’s according to ongoing research on the changing Art of Medicineby Nuance Communications. Not only do they use technology to gain insight about their diagnoses and treatment options, they compare notes using their social networks. An estimated 76% of millennials value online reviews from other patients when making decisions regarding their health or choosing a physician, that’s according to a recent report from Salesforce.

As health care providers, we need to understand patients’ preferences, behaviors and changing expectations. We must continue to find ways to reach people like Jake and connect with them at different points on their health care journey, offering them information and alternative services that might be more appealing to them.

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