How Millennials Will Change – and Save – Medicine

May 30, 2013

The Millennials entering the workforce today easily integrate the use of technology into their lives. We must adopt and adapt to this new world.

Two things caught my eye this week: first a non-reversal of a call in a major league game on a home run that was clearly shown on replay, and second a jury verdict in New York which noted how much the jury was helped by the plaintiff’s use of technology - iPad and wireless to allow the jury to see, blow up and have tagged images from the case.

At least to me, both are examples of how technology is changing how we do things or at least how it could. The umps are resistant to using replay, and for most of us watching, that seems stubborn and backward.

And the legal world is clearly taking the opportunity to adopt new technology and use it to their advantage.

So how is that relevant?

The newest named generation, the Millennials, are just entering the workforce and joining us Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers in our profession. They interact differently than we do.

The simplest observation is how they easily integrate the use of electronics into life. Beyond this they have a notion that they can change and challenge things from the get go. So they’ll interact differently with physician leadership right away.

There may be a natural tendency to resist both of those trends. It’s hard to adopt new ways of doing things, and medicine is certainly an area where old processes - like paper records, face-to-face or voice-to-voice communications, for example - are still used. But new forms of interaction with peers and patients are increasingly the way of the world -and the expectation.

It is not just Millennial colleagues we are seeing do this. It is Millennial patients and staff too. For example, they all expect you can deliver results electronically and seamlessly. (One younger neighbor sent a whole MR to me in DropBox, an online storage and sharing site, and later asked why we all didn’t just use that for storage and sharing of files).

It is a new world and one we need to quickly adopt and adapt to. It is more than just adopting the latest tech though. It is a culture of adoption of new ideas and of adaptation more generally. It is a feeling that things can and should move quickly and change for the better - not slowly and gradually but here and now. That is not the culture of medicine that most of us grew up with.

We all realize that integrating that way of thinking into medicine has to be balanced with our careful, methodical approach, but Millennial will not let it be ignored.