Millennials Flock to Telehealth, Online Research

April 2, 2021 – The internet is often the first place many of us go to find information, whether it’s hotels, music, or furniture. And health advice is no exception, especially among millennials.

A new survey in February of 2,040 millennials (aged 23-39) by Harmony Healthcare IT found that 69% of respondents sought medical and medical advice online instead of going to the doctor, and a quarter of respondents trust Google to accurately diagnose their symptoms. . In addition, a strong majority (83%) do their own research, even after hearing their doctor’s advice, and 42% trust their own research more than their doctor’s.

“This seems to be a common thread with millennials turning to online resources to diagnose their symptoms or to research an illness they may have,” Collin Czarnecki, researcher for the Harmony Computer Survey told WebMD. Healthcare.

Provide reliable online resources

Harmony Healthcare IT conducted a similar survey of millennials in 2019.

“As a data management company working with hospitals across the country, we wanted to look at Generation Y, a demographic that many hospital groups work with, and we decided to look at Generation again. Y this year to see the changes the pandemic could have brought about. ”Czarnecki said.

The use of the internet for medical advice has not changed much since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the 2019 survey found a slightly higher percentage (73%) of millennials going online. for medical advice, but “that number has remained about equal,” he said.

WebMD was the most viewed online site. It was used by 71% of respondents, followed by news articles (27%), YouTube (26%), health apps (23%), FamilyDoctor.org (18%), Reddit (18%) and Everyday Health (16 “It was really interesting to see people looking at Reddit,” Czarnecki said. “It’s been a great resource for researching stocks, but it seems people are also using it to get health advice. “

Amir Lerman, MD, director of the Chest Pain and Coronary Physiology Clinic in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, told WebMD that these findings had an important take-home message for healthcare providers.

“Consulting the internet for medical advice is not going to go away and is part of a democratization of resources,” said Lerman, a professor of medicine whose research found that a large number of people were searching online for it. know more about their cardiac symptoms, thus potentially delaying life-saving medical care.

“As physicians, we need to make sure that we are providing the right online sources that patients can access and that they are reliable and unbiased commercially or professionally,” he said.

Millennials prefer telemedicine

Despite heavy use of the internet for medical advice, 79% of millennials surveyed reported having a primary care doctor – up 3 percentage points from 2019. In fact, more than a quarter (28 %) established a new relationship with a primary care physician during the pandemic.

In contrast, the percentage of Millennials who had a physical exam (65%) in the past year remained unchanged from 2019.

Czarnecki suggested that the higher number of primary care visits could be explained by the use of telemedicine, which has multiplied since the start of the pandemic.

“We found that almost half – 41% – of respondents said they would prefer to see the doctor virtually, which is in line with the convenience that telehealth creates for patients,” he said. The fact that more people were at home due to social distancing restrictions linked to the pandemic also increased the time people might have had to see the doctor.

“Being able to talk to your doctor via a video platform, communicate with the doctor via a healthcare portal, and schedule an appointment has probably played a role in making millennials more comfortable in scheduling an appointment. ‘a follow-up appointment,’ Czarnecki said.

Lerman believes there will be more virtual interactions, even after the pandemic. He said they could make in-person appointments “professionally and efficiently.”

“Some of the work can be done before the appointment by increasing digital health platforms and applications,” he said. For example, “we are working to do part of the cardiac workup at home using devices that can transmit certain patient information in advance.”

The convenience of telehealth has also made it more popular. And a virtual appointment can also lay the foundation for an in-person visit, since the doctor and patient will have already reviewed the issues together and can jointly decide on the time and nature of the in-person visit.

The impact of financial insecurity

Concerns about potential job loss or time off may have played a role in the increase in visits to primary care physicians. “With a potential job loss looming over their heads, they want to make sure they have received a worst-case scenario of losing employer health care,” Czarnecki hypothesis.

Although more millennials have seen a primary care doctor, up to 43% said they ignored a health issue and 33% said they ignored it for more than a year. A similar percentage had not had a health check since the start of the pandemic. The most common reason was security concerns related to COVID-19; but more than a third did not show up for a physical exam because they felt it was too expensive.

“The economics of the pandemic have played a huge role in how millennials relate to their health care,” Czarnecki noted.

Indeed, nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents said they had incurred new medical debt since the start of the pandemic, and 28% reported an increase of more than $ 1,000.

“Some of the non-face-to-face interactions are covered by insurance, and I think that will increase. There is pressure to cover visits and tests because they save time and money, ”Lerman said.

Many millennials don’t want to be vaccinated

Immunization is a hot topic among Americans in general, and millennials are no exception. Only just over half (55%) of respondents said they would get vaccinated against COVID-19, a quarter said they would not and a fifth were unsure.

Millennials who said they wouldn’t get the vaccine were more likely not to have a primary care doctor and also more likely to get their medical opinion online, rather than through a professional health, ”Czarnecki said.

“Our data shows that Millennials rely heavily on the Internet for medical information and misinformation, and this potentially impacts their opinion on whether or not they should get the vaccine,” he said. declared.

Compared to women, a higher percentage of men were ready to receive the COVID-19 vaccine (51% vs. 60%, respectively).

Czarnecki hypothesized that women may be more reluctant to be vaccinated than men, as recent CDC data shows women report more serious side effects and more allergic reactions than men.

Another factor is that millennials in particular may have “major concerns about the potential impact of a vaccine on pregnancy and breastfeeding,” Lerman suggested.

Silver lining?

COVID-19 has changed the face of healthcare for all Americans, and millennials are no exception. “Overall, it’s important to look at the positive side of the trends that our survey found, especially the importance of telehealth,” Czarnecki said.

“Physicians need to ensure that the technologies that facilitate patient-physician interactions are easy to use and that it is as transparent and convenient for them to plan and hold future appointments as possible,” he said. declared.

Harmony Healthcare IT plans to continue surveying Millennials to see if these trends continue, as healthcare evolves after the pandemic.

WebMD Health News

Sources

CDC: “First COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring Month – United States, December 14, 2020 to January 13, 2021”.

JAMA: “Association of Search Engine Queries for Chest Pain with the Epidemiology of Coronary Artery Disease.”

Harmony Healthcare IT: “Survey reveals impact of COVID-19 pandemic on millennial health,” “Survey reveals relationship of millennials to healthcare.”

Collin Czarnecki, Researcher, Harmony Healthcare IT.

Amir Lerman, MD, professor of medicine, director of the Chest Pain and Coronary Physiology Clinic, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.


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