Is the Healthcare System Prepared for the Emerging Era of Digital Patients?

With the rapid advancement of technology over the past 20 years, Generation Z (defined as those born after 1996, currently considered ages 3 – 23) has never known an analog world. By the time they were old enough to start exploring the world on their own, the internet was well established – personal computers in the household were the norm, cell phones were ubiquitous and smart phones gained popularity before they were pre-teens, and for some, before they were born. So with Gen Z hitting their early 20’s this year (and the youngest just entering kindergarten) how does their perception of the world impact healthcare?

Constant Connection as a Driver

Because Gen Z has never been disconnected, they want to remain connected to their care constantly – even when they’re not sick. Medical facilities will need to account for space and infrastructure to allow practitioners to video chat with patients. These spaces will need to be comfortable, well lit, and private enough for confidential conversations. In addition, patients will expect more robust systems that monitor and communicate the status of their loved ones during their hospital stays.

Decentralized Care in the Extreme

Gen Z will take wellness to new levels. Remote monitoring and diagnosis and devices that feed health information back to their healthcare provider will work to replace a routine office visit. With this new level of connectivity, Gen Z will expect health information and advice wherever they are – at home, at school, on a trip or at work. To them, there is no “designated space” for any one activity. All space is versatile and can be used for multiple purposes.

The Changing Notion of Space

When it comes to healthcare, the idea that they must go to a medical clinic or hospital will be more foreign to them. They’ve grown up with clinics in supermarkets and department stores and with mail-order and online pharmacies. They’re used to shopping for household goods while on their way to a concert and ordering coffee at Starbucks before they even head out the door. When it comes to healthcare facilities, convenience will outweigh centralized services. The future design of healthcare facilities must continue to evolve and respond to this convenience expectation.

The Importance of Value

Generation Z tracks every dollar they spend. They’re hyper-conscious about what they get for their money. Healthcare will be no different. They will demand higher transparency in billing and will not hesitate to call out what they consider unnecessary overhead. They look for great experiences, but at a great value.

What Does This Mean for Healthcare Facilities?

Of course, hospitals and clinics will still need to serve the needs of Boomers, Gen X and Millennials as they continue to age. But Generation Z will lead the shift in personalized, constantly connected care. Facilities that prioritize digital information exchange and digital connectivity with healthcare practitioners will win over this generation first. Continued focus on the ability to deliver care throughout communities – where people live, work and play – will also reap benefits with Generation Z. Hospitals and clinics have been advancing technology in and out of their physical spaces for years. Gen Z kicks that advancement up a notch, and increases its priority when thinking about your space.  

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