Is Age Just a Number? Or Possibly a Health Plan’s Most Powerful Piece of Member Data?

A person’s age. It’s a simple piece of information that every health plan has for every member. And that number also contains a wealth of information.

Is Age Just a Number? Or Possibly a Health Plan’s Most Powerful Piece of Member Data

Leveraged correctly, a person’s age can reveal insights into the best ways to support and guide that member through the healthcare system. That’s because the demographic age group that each member belongs to has specific preferences and concerns when it comes to interacting with healthcare. By providing the services and information that accommodate those preferences and answer those concerns, health plans can deliver a more age-friendly experience that improves member satisfaction, increases benefits utilization and builds brand loyalty.

For this blog, we’ll be examining the healthcare preferences for five demographic groups. These insights will provide health plans with a starting point for effectively connecting with members no matter what stage of life they are in currently.


Even though Gen Z currently constitutes only a small part of a health plan’s membership, this generation deserves careful attention and study. That’s because Gen Z is an indicator of what health plans can expect from their members in the future. As this generation comes of age and enters the workforce, their preferences and expectations will increasingly shape the healthcare market. For example, GenZ is the generation most likely to seek alternatives to Western medicine, such as yoga and acupuncture. They also value mental health more than any other generation and expect these services to be fully integrated into the healthcare system. Understanding this generation can also improve member retention when they turn 26 and are required to transition out of their parent’s health plan and obtain separate coverage.

Some truths for Gen Z members include:

  • Most are dissatisfied with the traditional healthcare system. 32 percent are dissatisfied with the effectiveness of treatment provided compared to only 4 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • They value price transparency and expect the healthcare system to operate like any other consumer retail market.
  • They are most likely to choose a Primary Care Provider (PCP) with digital capabilities such as telehealth.
  • They are also more likely to seek financial assistance and low-cost alternatives to care.
  • They are least likely to have an established relationship with a PCP. Only 55 percent of Gen Z have a PCP compared to 67 percent of Millennials, 76 percent of Gen Xers, and 85 percent of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.

Health plans take note. Millennials are now America’s largest living generation, having passed the Baby Boomers in 2016. For the next two decades, this generation will require the most attention from your health plan as they become the dominant demographic in the workforce and the top utilizers of healthcare services. Millennials are digitally savvy. As a result, they prefer a digital delivery space that works across the entire care continuum, from scheduling
an appointment to receiving post-care results.

The Millennial generation is:

  • Looking for price transparency, comparison tools and easy availability of information online.
  • 44 percent would switch doctors to have a better digital experience compared to only 12 percent of those 56 and older.
  • 54 percent would like to continue using telemedicine as much as possible even after COVID in-person restrictions are lifted.
  • 73 percent of Millennials in their 30s (as well as Gen Xers in their 40s) would choose a virtual visit if an in-person visit was not available that day.
  • The most cost-conscious generation and the most likely to leave a PCP because of a care cost increase.

Gen X is the first generation to participate in healthcare as active consumers, not as passive patients. They want the authority to take charge and exert control over their healthcare decisions. Now in the prime of their life, Gen Xers are extremely busy with their family lives and careers. Time is their most valued commodity, so they’re looking for convenience and appointment times that fit their schedules. They are making healthcare decisions not only for themselves and their children but also, in many cases, for their parents.

Gen X members typically are:

  • Information seekers who use consumer reviews and social media as well as traditional media to inform their healthcare decisions.
  • Frequent visitors to the doctor for themselves and their families.
  • More focused on cost, as they tend to be more in debt.
  • 75 percent say they are the primary decision-makers for selecting doctors and hospitals for their families, which makes quality care a high priority.
  • Almost half are skeptical about the advice doctors give, a 48 percent increase compared to Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers have reached that point in life when health issues are becoming more frequent and serious. As a result, this generation is very concerned about the reputations of the physicians they choose and the quality of care they receive. Having physicians and other care team members they can absolutely trust is a top priority. The way Baby Boomers use ratings and reviews demonstrates how high their standards are: 46 percent say the lowest acceptable star rating for a healthcare provider is 4 (out of 5). In contrast, only 29 percent of both Millennials and Gen Z had the same response.

For Baby Boomers:

  • Loyalty to their current PCP is high. They are also the most likely to follow a referral (alongside their older counterparts in the Silent Generation).
  • These members rely heavily on word-of-mouth information and online rating services to find specialty physicians and surgical services that meet their high standards.
  • They frequently utilize their patient portal to communicate with their providers.
  • Older boomers are resistant to virtual care, but younger boomers (in their 50s) are more receptive.
  • Very interested in learning more about in-home health services to keep their independence and avoid moving to an assisted living or other high-care facility.

Together, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation are the largest consumers of healthcare. As you would expect, members of the Silent Generation are creatures of habit. They have grown accustomed to the traditional ways of interacting with the healthcare system and don’t want to change their ways. They trust the advice they receive from healthcare professionals and defer to their opinion rather than searching for other information. The preferences and concerns of the Silent Generation line up strongly with their younger Baby Boomer counterparts, with one exception: virtual care is largely unused by the Silent Generation.

For the Silent Generation:

  • Continuity is a high priority. These members prefer traditional in-person care and longer clinical visits with a highly credentialed PCP whom they know and trust.
  • Loyalty counts: The Silent Generation is the least likely to leave their PCP and break a referral.
  • These members are the most resistant to virtual care.
  • Want to stay close to home for their care: travel time is twice as important as hospital affiliation when making a healthcare decision.
  • Highly interested in learning more about in-home health services to keep their independence and avoid moving to an assisted living or other high-care facility.

At the end of the day, age is more than a number. Health plans that adjust their outreach and engagement strategies based on generational differences among their members will be more effective in reaching and influencing their overall membership. While age is only one data point for personalizing member interactions, it is a very powerful one. And as mentioned at the outset of this blog, it is a data point that every plan has on every member.

Want to learn more about how your plan can leverage generational truths to improve member engagement? Contact us today for a personal consultation.