While this country has a long history of youth activism, many were surprised by the relatively loud voices of the teenagers in Parkland, Florida, after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The Florida teens are providing a remarkable glimpse into the population known as Generation Z.
These kids have grown up rehearsing safety measures for active shooter situations and intruder alerts. They’ve also used their ubiquitous smartphones to openly record and navigate nearly every aspect of their lives.
What’s also becoming evident in this very large generation of about 77.6 million people—generally those born after 1998—is that they’re a mosaic of cultural and ethnic diversity. U.S. Census data reported by CNN indicates that only about 51% of those currently under the age of 18 are white, followed by 25% Hispanic and 15% African-American. Gen Z could easily turn out to be the generation that shifts the United States into such diversity that nonwhite populations become the collective majority.
Although it will be a while before Gen Z changes the business world by claiming the C-suite, it’s important to consider how, thanks to its size, the generation could create enormous policy evolutions with just one visit to the polls. Specifically, consider the ways Gen Z attitudes might change healthcare in the next decade.
1. Gen Z will transform health disparities related to race, culture and gender identification.
In looking at the demographic trends of the generations that precede them, one can forecast that Gen Zers will find diversity as the norm rather than an emerging new reality. They will embrace multiracial families and LGBTQ perspectives while emphatically including cultural preferences in medical research and care innovations. Cultural diversity will be so unremarkable to them, they will likely lean toward more inclusive health policies without even realizing it.
2. Gen Z will drive highly individualized consumerism in healthcare delivery.
In their world, Gen Zers can set personal preferences for almost everything. Enjoy extra queso on the burrito that’s delivered to your front door every Friday night? Make that request once, and extra queso will be delivered every time going forward because that data has been saved in your preferences. It’s clear that today’s comparatively regimented, linear care plans simply won’t do for Gen Z. Not only will they develop a greater spectrum of treatment options—from mindfulness to precision medicine to services we haven’t even thought of yet—they’ll also find ways to revise healthcare service offerings based on demand. And this will necessitate a significant shift in payment models, of course.
3. They will adopt a single-payer system.
Single-payer healthcare continues to circulate among policy proposals. Younger populations might view the concept as a means for streamlining the costly, inefficient payment machine, which, for example, can cost $99,000 a year for the average primary care physician to manage today. While a single payer won’t necessarily reduce care costs in the $3 trillion healthcare system, it could condense the administrative aspects. Gen Z won’t have the patience for middlemen and roundabout processes. They want results with one click—not 10 or 12 or 20. Pay attention to the examples in just the past few months that demonstrate a sudden exile of middlemen. You can see it coming.
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