Want to know what the “next big thing” is? Ask a member of Generation Z—and they’ll Google it.
The first generation born into a wired world, today’s tech-savvy teens are tomorrow’s connected consumers, promising a future in which nearly everything is virtual, and virtually everything is possible.
Also known as “iGen,” Generation Z’ers comprise everyone under 18 today. These “digital natives” not only shop and play via devices and social networks, they also think, socialize, behave, and create tech-centrically. Technology doesn’t just augment their world; it is their world.
According to research, Generation Z:
• Uses social media (81 percent); • Spends 6 to 10 hours a day on their mobile devices; • Multi-tasks across five screens, including smartphones (15.4 hours per week), TV (13.2) and laptops (10.6), and • Uses the internet for research (85 percent).
Studies also show that Z’s, the most populous generation in history, soon will hold enormous economic clout, making up 40 percent of consumers by 2020.
What do they spend their money on? You guessed it: technology.
Health care lags behind
As businesses scramble to position themselves for iGen’s business, the medical profession may be woefully unprepared to meet their demands.
According to the HIPAA Journal, the healthcare industry lags behind every other industry sector in adopting new technologies. Although perhaps not surprising in a field that is notoriously slow to change, this reluctance to embrace the new may mean losing customers, or even lives.
“Hyperconnectivity changes behavior,” says Thomas Koulopoulos, author of “The Gen Z Effect.” As a result, Gen Z is also, among other things, more mature and “in control” than past generations; expects instant gratification, and is more health-conscious—although, being more sedentary, is not necessarily more fit.
In this new paradigm, the old models will no longer work. Waiting rooms are being replaced by virtual, on-demand office visits; apps, wearables, and software now help their users monitor, track, and improve their health; proactive holistic care (“Wholicity”) is taking the place of reactive, body-focused treatment. Individuals, aided by technology, hold the information and the power, transformed from passive “patients” into informed customers.
Far from waiting for today’s youth to come of age, the change is already underway. Gen Z, Koulopoulos says, reflects not only a birthdate, but also a mindset. It’s a club open to all who embrace new technologies—a number that is rapidly growing in all walks of life, and among every generation. Will healthcare providers lead the way, or be left out in the cold?
Sherry Jones is a freelance writer and editor specializing in new technologies, cybersecurity, science, and health. Find her on LinkedIn here.