Today’s young adults demand a highly personal health care experience

People who have grown up in the internet age have different health care expectations than previous generations.

Over two years of living in a global pandemic has dramatically shifted our nation’s expectations regarding health care. Until now, the ability to drive better health outcomes at a lower cost required a transition from volume-based to value-based care. After two years of digital transformations across all industries, there is no turning back for health care.

The good news is, the foundations are in place to provide patients with value-based, personalized and data-driven health care. New interoperability mandates, such as CMS’s Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule and Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare’s Electronic Data Interchange rules, have enabled some providers to spend more time with their patients and truly focus on their health.

For early adopter clinicians, the advanced data sharing capabilities of value-based care models and the interoperability mandates have meant the ability to give more real-time, accurate information to patients through more mission-critical patient health data.

Thanks to the rapid development and push for digital tools and apps to track vaccination status, reactions to the vaccine and future dose reminders, and COVID-19 test results, health care consumers are growing increasingly aware of what it means to have access to their health information. While this concept is new for some, one large population segment expects nothing less: young adults in their 20s and 30s.

This population is the only group of health care consumers that have always had instant access to information via the internet. This generation does not know life without 24/7 access to news, search engines, and social media.

As a result of their pervasive connectedness, they have grown up with a fundamentally different perspective of having and protecting a digital footprint. They are accustomed to sharing personal data, such as an address and birth date, in exchange for instant availability of information, grocery and meal delivery, and even meeting like-minded people or dating. This is forcing traditional industry stakeholders to rethink the future of health care data privacy and transparency in data collection and sharing.

People in this age cohort also have a fundamentally different view of health care than previous generations. For example, according to a 2019 study by Accenture, a larger population of Generation Z—those born between 1997 and 2012, is "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with many traditional aspects of care, including effectiveness of treatment, convenience of location or channel, and price and operations transparency, compared to all generations before them.

Given this cohort’s different views on traditional healthcare, a shift towards personalized and data-driven health care is inevitable, and value-based care credentials will be a key factor in how the health care industry measures success against these new and greater expectations.

Some providers are already set up for success. Organizations that implemented value-based care models prior to COVID-19 were better prepared to cope with the pandemic and the increased pressure it placed on them. These organizations had contracted to be paid for better outcomes, rather than the number of services performed, and received greater access to real-time data. Contracting under value-based care models enables information to move more freely between providers and health plans, allowing for more direct and real-time data sharing with patients.

The increased penalties for information blocking expected to take effect this year could also be a driving force, should providers not meet new price transparency rules. Young people want to know what they are getting for their health care dollar—not an unreasonable concept, but one the health care industry has been slow to embrace.

These younger health care consumers will usher in a quid pro quo relationship between sharing information and receiving better access to great care. As demand increases for health care that fits their expectations, value-based care models will shift tofocus on real and perceived value creation, not just attaining an acceptable ratio of quality to cost based on numerators and denominators.

Many of today’s young adults understand how access to big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence can drive the health care industry to embrace the same consumer-centric experience that e-commerce consumers have enjoyed for the past two decades. The development of smart, predictive technology that can comb through massive amounts of health care data will be what makes all this possible—and we have the great expectations from enterprising, persistent and highly curious young adults to thank for finally dragging health care into the 21st century.

Pattwell is principal consultant of value-based care at Edifecs, a global health information technology company based in Bellevue, Washington.