• Alan Shoebridge

It's not you, it's me! Nobody 'wants' a relationship in healthcare, and that makes perfect sense


During conversations about generations and healthcare one assertion you'll hear often is that younger generations don't want to have a relationship with a doctor. That's usually followed by a grand pronouncement about how that fact will radically change our industry in the near future. That's partially right, but also very wrong because the underlying assertion is built on the false premise that older generations actually "want" a relationship with their healthcare providers.


The truth is that almost nobody truly wants a relationship with a doctor, hospital or healthcare system. Think about your own life experience – no matter whether you are Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X or Boomer – when you were 18 did you want a relationship with a doctor? At 30 did you want a relationship? What about now? Do you want a relationship or do you need a relationship?


If you’re young and healthy, the less of a relationship you need with healthcare providers. For you, it’s naturally more important to focus on convenience, price and ease of use.


On the other hand, if you're older (and likely not as healthy as you once were) you are starting to need to have a relationship. Having a doctor that you talk with regularly who understands your specific health issues starts becoming an asset that you never thought about needing before. This becomes incredibly important if you're managing chronic conditions that require frequent follow-ups.


You see it's really not about them, it's about you.


So, what should we be doing?


First, let’s admit the obvious. Healthcare is an avoidance product. We don't want it unless we really need it because something is a little bit wrong, somewhat wrong or catastrophically wrong with our health. If we could go our entire lives never visiting the doctor without experiencing adverse consequences we would all gladly do that. Unfortunately, how to do that doesn't look likely to be figured out any time soon.


The best approach a healthcare system can take is to offer a variety of care options that meet people where they are in their life stages. Almost everyone is going to age into needing more of a relationship with a healthcare provider at 50 than they needed at 18.


Yet, we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s so great about the way younger generations are pushing for change in healthcare. Everyone – no matter what age – wants things to improve. All generations would like the healthcare system to be easier, faster, cheaper, more personal, etc. Gen X and the Boomers just need those positive changes to be combined with the ability to form a deeper relationship with their care providers. For the younger generations, the relationship aspect hasn't yet become a priority. It will in the future.


All of this is to say that we should combine the things younger generations value most and build more of them without forgetting that relationships do matter when you are managing the chronic conditions and health concerns that naturally come with aging. If you figure out how to avoid the aging process, please do let me know.


That's the real future: Making a better system for everyone.


Interested in learning more?


Oh yeah, there's a book about all of this and how healthcare really is being affected by each generation. You can get it here.

Just for fun


This was my inspiration for this post.



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