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Gen Z as patients: How much do you know about these digital natives?

Healthcare organizations have a new generation of healthcare decision-makers to account for: Generation Z, also known as Gen Z or “zoomers.” While precise definitions vary, Gen Z is commonly understood as those born from 1997 to the early 2010s. That means the oldest members of this cohort are 25 years old, and millions of their peers are entering adulthood each year.

There are approximately 68.2 million members of Gen Z in the U.S., making them the third-largest generational group after millennials and baby boomers and roughly one-fifth of the total population.

Here’s what healthcare organizations should know about Gen Z, and how these characteristics may shape their experiences as patients.

Gen Z from a social standpoint

Understanding the demographics of Gen Z can help healthcare organizations deliver culturally competent care and reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. According to data from the Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the most diverse generation in the U.S. Fifty-two percent of Gen Z’ers are non-Hispanic white, 25% are Hispanic, 14% are Black, 6% are Asian/Pacific Islander and 5% identify as another race or two or more races. Six percent of Gen Z’ers are immigrants, and 22% have at least one immigrant parent. Additionally, one-fifth of Gen Z identifies as LGBT—double the percent among the preceding millennial generation.

Providers with Gen Z patients should also bear in mind other social determinants of health (SDOH) as members of this generation report a higher rate of unmet social needs. In one study, 58% of Gen Z’ers reported two or more unmet needs related to income, food, housing, transportation and other SDOH.

Healthcare organizations should consider screening all patients for SDOH and leveraging electronic health records (EHR) data to determine where the greatest needs lie among their patient population. Those insights can help inform which interventions may be most effective for Gen Z patients in their community.

Mobility and convenience are key

In addition to that demographical context, healthcare organizations also need to know how Gen Z interacts with the broader world around them and the healthcare system. On average, members of Gen Z say they received their first smartphones before their twelfth birthdays, and they spend an average of 11 hours per week on their mobile devices. From websites to patient portals, healthcare organizations should ensure they offer mobile-friendly experiences to engage these digital natives. Additionally, healthcare organizations can build help preference among Gen Z’ers by integrating health data from smart devices into EHRs. By 2024, an estimated 20.5 million members of Gen Z will own a smart wearable.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, zoomers tend to have less traditional views and preferences with regards to healthcare. Approximately 55% of Gen Z’ers report they have a primary care physician (PCP), whereas 67% of millennials, 76% of Gen X’ers and 84% of baby boomers have a PCP. As a result, healthcare organizations may want to consider partnering with or scaling up nontraditional sites of care, such as retail care and urgent care clinics, to attract and retain Gen Z patients, who will only become a bigger portion of the adult patient population over time.

Similarly, Gen Z appears to have a stronger preference for virtual care than older generations, largely because of the convenience it offers. Among millennials and Gen Z’ers, 44% say they would consider switching providers if theirs did not offer telehealth going forward, while just 25% of baby boomers agree with this statement. To meet Gen Z patients where they are, healthcare organizations can offer hybrid or virtual-first care models when clinically appropriate.

Gen Z has been shaped by the technological advancements punctuating their lives. Healthcare organizations need solutions that support innovation to adapt and provide an effective, engaging care experience for these soon-to-be and young adults. Learn how the Sunrise™ Platform of Health can support your organization’s technology evolution here.

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