Millennials Redefine Quality
The impact of Millennials’ interpretations and expectations
of quality service from the healthcare profession in general—and laboratories
in particular—continues to grow with each passing year. Now the largest
generation demographically, Millennials are coming of age and gradually
assuming their rightful place as both mass consumers and providers of
healthcare services. Quality service has always been defined in terms of
technological processes, as well as customer service. The former is based on
meeting or exceeding quality performance standards through all phases of
testing to produce the most accurate results for the physician as soon as
The level of customer service has historically been assessed
by how well the laboratory communicated with the medical staff and “went the
extra mile” to meet their needs and expectations. This included a test menu
that matched the needs of the medical staff, test order guidance, result
interpretation readily provided with clear and complete test reports.
However, under the ever accelerating rate of technological
change and innovation, expectations of what the laboratory can do, should do
and must do are changing. From a purely technical point-of-view, new test
methodologies and instrumentation have enabled new test specialties to emerge.
Customer service has now broadened beyond the laboratory/physician continuum to
include direct patient access to laboratory services.
Why discuss the specific role of Millennials at this point? Because
they are now transitioning to assume leadership and becoming the largest
consumers in healthcare.
Unlike Boomers or Gen Xers, Millennials are coming of age when
all these advances now exist, and their expectations are to fully utilize the
newest technology already available. If laboratory test results can be
digitally reported on hand-held devices, why shouldn’t patients have direct
access to their results? Do they really need a physician as an intermediary
when they can go online and self-diagnose? Why wait for an appointment?
These generational expectations become cultural norms,
codified politically through new legislation enabling rightful use of this new
technology (i.e., direct patient access for both requesting and receiving tests
without the physician required as intermediary).
A few observations
Growing up with video games, Google and the various trappings of the
digital age, Millennials’ perspectives are strongly shaped by having the internet
and all its spoils literally at their fingertips. Millennials also aren’t as
tied to the idea that they must have one specific doctor as their physician.
For standard checkups and consultations, some don’t even feel the need to see a
doctor at all. Instead, many Millennials are content with seeing a nurse
practitioner or physician assistant.
topped a 2012 Deloitte survey as the generation that is most cost-conscious.
It’s the group that’s most willing to switch doctors, use retail clinics and
travel farther in order to save money on healthcare.
One way insurance providers are addressing Millennials’
penchant for pinching pennies is by offering new tools that allow customers to
do price comparisons for services such as laboratory work. There is a company
called ClearCost Health, which allows customers to do price checks between
health services via computer, mobile or even a call center.
In summary, quality laboratory service now includes:
- Direct access by patients to their complete medical records, including test
- Requests for interpretation of test results.
- Testing requests directly from the patient, without
- Increased interaction by patients with the laboratory
through patient portals available on their computer and mobile devices. These
have almost an unlimited capacity to replace in-person visits to access test
information, receive information about prescribed medication, complete required
signature forms ranging from insurance documents to consent agreements, as well
as make future appointments for office visits, submit questions and provide
- Increased need for additional communication skills by
laboratory staff, since customer service personnel are now expected to provide
a wider variety of information.
- An awareness that social media provides a forum for both
positive and negative reviews of the services provided.
One last note: It is important to hire these younger people
who are comfortable with new technologies and open to trying new concepts in
the field. Just as Millennials can make a difference as patients, they also can
also contribute as laboratory staff
Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers: Five-Year Look Back-Key findings,
strategic implications. December 14, 2012.