Millennial Generation Doctors And Patients: Changing Mindset, Aspirations, And Expectations

The term ‘Millennial Generation’ normally refers to the generation, born from 1980 onward, brought up using digital technology and mass media. According to ‘Millennial Mindset’ – a website dedicated to helping businesses understand millennial employees and new ways of working, the key attributes of this generation are broadly considered as follows:

  1. Technology Driven:
  2. Socially Conscious
  3. Collaborative

The millennial mindset:

The publication also indicates that the overall mindset of the millennial generation is also vastly different from the previous generations, which can fall into four categories:

  1. Personal freedom, Non-hierarchical, Interdependent, Connected, Networked, Sharing
  2. Instant gratification, Wide Knowledge, Test and learn, Fast paced, Always on, Innovative
  3. Fairness, Narcissistic, Purpose driven
  4. Balance, Eco-friendly and Experience focused

Seeks different professional ecosystem:

In the professional arena too, this new generation’s expectations from the professional ecosystem are often seen to be distinctly different, as they are generally seen to be:

  • Willing to make a meaningful professional contribution, mostly through self-learning
  • Seek maintaining a reasonable balance between work and personal life
  • Prefer flexible work environment, unwilling to be rigidly bound by convention, tradition, or set rules
  • Impatient for fast both personal and organizational growth, often on the global canvas

The ‘Millennial Generation’ in India:

The millennium generation with a different mindset, aspirations and value system, already constitutes a major chunk of the Indian demography. According to the 2011 Census, out of estimated 1.2 billion population, around 701 million Indians (60 percent) are under 30 years of age, which also very often referred to as ‘demographic dividend’ of India.

Currently, a large number of Indians belonging to the millennial generation are entering into the work stream of both national and International companies operating in the country.

The challenge in healthcare arena:

In the healthcare sphere too, we now come across a fast increasing number of technology savvy and digitally inclined patients and doctors of this generation. Accurately gauging, and then meeting with their changing expectations has indeed been a challenging task for the pharma companies, and the related service providers.

Their expectations from the brands and other services, as provided by the pharma companies, don’t seem to be quite the same as before, either, so are the individually preferred communication formats, the way of processing, and quickly cross-verifying the product and other healthcare information. Before arriving at any decision, they were found to keenly observe the way brands are marketed, their intrinsic value, type and the quality of interface for engagement with them by the companies, whenever required.

Thus, from the pharma business perspective, qualitatively different strategic approaches, to both the millennial doctors and patients, would be of increasing importance and an ongoing exercise. The goal posts would also keep moving continuously. Achieving proficiency in this area with military precision, I reckon, would differentiate the men from the boys, in pursuit of business performance excellence.

In this article, I shall primarily discuss on the changing mindset and needs of the patients and doctors of the ‘millennial generation’.

A. Treating millennial patients differently:

Around 81 percent of millennial doctors, against 57 percent of older generation doctors think that millennial patients require a different relationship with their doctors than non-millennial patients. About 66 percent of millennial doctors actually act upon this and change their approach, as the survey reported.

The difference:

The key differences on millennial doctors’ treating millennial patients, are mainly in the following areas:

  • Expects more, doesn’t get swayed away: Millennial doctors are more likely to advise the millennial patients to do additional research on their own for discussion. 71 percent of millennial doctors believe it’s helpful for patients to do online research before their appointment. However, they don’t get swayed by requests from more-informed patients, as only 23 percent of millennial doctors say they are influenced by patient requests when it comes to prescribing a treatment, whereas 41 percent of non-millennial doctors report finding those requests influential.
  • Gets into the details: The millennial doctors are more likely to simplify and streamline explanations for older patients, whereas non- millennial doctors were more likely to simplify explanations for millennial patients too, treating them exactly the same way.
  • Relies on digital resources: Millennial doctors rely mostly on using digital resources for treating millennial patients, but only around 56.5 percent of them do so for non-millennial patients.

B. Treating millennial doctors differently:

For effective business engagement and ensure commensurate financial outcomes, pharma companies will first require to know and deeply understand the changing mindset, expectations, and aspirations of the millennial doctors, then work out tailor-made strategic approaches, accordingly, to achieve the set objectives.

Top 3 expectations from the pharma industry:

According to a June 2016 special survey report on Healthcare Marketing to Millennials, released by inVentive Health agencies, the top 3 expectations of millennial and non-millennial doctors from the pharma industry, are as follows:

Rank Millennial Doctors % Rank Non- Millennial Doctors %
1. Unbranded Disease Information 67 1. Unbranded Disease Information 58
2. Discussion Guides 48 2. Latest Specific News 46
3. Adherence Support 40 3. Healthy Life Style Information 42

Pharma players, therefore, can provide customized offerings and services, in various innovative platforms, based on these top 3 different expectations of millennial and non-millennial doctors, to achieve much needed critical competitive edge for a sustainable business performance.

Brand communication process needs a relook:

The above report also noted a number of the interesting trends related to the millennial doctors. I am quoting below just a few of those:

  • Only 16 percent of millennial doctors found pharma promotional materials to be influential when considering a new treatment compared to 48 percent of non-millennial doctors who do.
  • 79 percent of them refer to information from pharmaceutical companies only after they’ve found that information elsewhere.
  • 65 percent of these doctors indicated, they did not trust information from pharmaceutical companies to be fair and balanced, while only 48 percent of their older peers shared that sentiment.
  • 50 percent found educational experiences that are driven by their peers to be the most relevant for learning and considering about new treatments, against 18 percent of non-millennial physicians.
  • 52 percent of them, when learning about new treatment options, favor peers as their conversation partners.
  • They are much more likely to rely on a third-party website for requisite product or treatment information
  • 60 percent of millennial doctors are more likely to see a pharma rep, if they offer important programs for their patients, compared to only 47 percent of non-millennial doctors. This also reflects greater patient centric values of the millennial doctors.
  • However, an overwhelming 81percent of millennial doctors believe that any type of ‘Direct To Consumer (DTC)’ promotion makes their job harder, because patients ask for medications they don’t need.
  • 41 percent of millennial doctors prefer a two-way and an in-person interaction, against just 11 percent of them with online reps. Here, it should be noted that this has to be an ‘interaction’, not just predominantly a monologue, even while using an iPad or any other android tablets.

Redesigning processes to meet changing expectations and needs:

Thus, to create requisite value, and ensure effective engagement with millennial doctors, the pharma companies may consider exploring the possibility of specifically designing their entire chain of interface with Millennials, right from promotional outreach to adherence tools, and from medical communications to detailing, as the survey report highlights. I shall mention below just a few of those as examples:

Communication platforms:

For personal, more dynamic and effective engagement, non-personal digital platforms – driving towards personal interactions with company reps, together with facilitating collaboration between their professional peer groups, came out as of immense importance to them.

Adherence and outcomes:

There is a need for the pharma companies to move the strategic engagement needle more towards patient outcomes. This is mainly because, medication adherence is a large part of the patient outcome equation. It involves a wide range of partnerships, such as, between patients and physicians, and also the physicians and pharma players. This particular need can be best met by offering exactly the type of collaborative approach that millennial doctors favor.

Medical communication:

Redesigning the core narrative of medical communication around a disease state and product, engaging the wisdom and enthusiasm of scientific, clinical, and educational leaders primarily to serve a well-articulated noble cause, are likely to fetch desired results, allaying the general distrust of millennial doctors on the pharma companies, in general.

Medical representative:

Earning the trust of the millennial doctors by respecting, accepting, and appealing to their value systems, is of utmost importance for the medical reps. To achieve this, drug companies would require to equip their reps with tools and programs that offer value in terms of patient support and adherence, while demonstrating compelling outcomes with a positive patient experience, and greater efficiency in treatment decisions.

Building reputation:

The “Purpose Generation” – that’s how millennials are often referred to. In that sense, to build a long lasting business reputation among them, pharma companies need to be in sync with this new generation.

Weaving a trusting relationship with them involves meeting all those needs that these doctors value, such as, adherence solutions, innovative patient support programs, and creating shared value for communities. This would mean, for many drug companies, charting an almost uncharted frontier, where there aren’t many footsteps to follow.

Need to induct younger generation to top leadership positions faster:

To capture these changes with precision, and designing effective engagement strategies for millennial patients and doctors accordingly, an open, innovative and virtually contemporary mindset with a pair of fresh eyes, are essential. As against this, even today, many ‘Baby Boomers’ (born approximately between 1946 and 1956), who have already earned the status of senior citizens, meticulously nursing a not so flexible mind with traditional views, still keep clutching on to the key top leadership positions in the pharma industry, both global and local.

This prevailing trend encompasses even those who are occupying just ornamental corporate leadership positions, mostly for PR purpose, besides being the public face of the organization, sans any significant and direct operational or financial responsibilities. Nevertheless, by pulling all available corporate levers and tricks, they hang-on to the job. In that way, these senior citizens delay the process of change in the key leadership positions with younger generation of professionals, who understand not just the growing Millennials much better, but also the ever changing market dynamics, and intricate customer behavior, to lead the organization to a greater height of all round success.

I hasten to add, a few of the younger global head honcho have now started articulating a different vision altogether, which is so relevant by being a community benefit oriented and patient centric, in true sense. These icons include the outgoing GSK chief Sir Andrew Witty, who explains how ‘Big Pharma’ can help the poor and still make money, and the Allergan CEO Brent Saunders promising to keep drug prices affordable. Being rather small in number, these sane voices get easily drowned in the din of other global head honchos, curling their lips at any other view point of less self-serving in nature. Quite understandably, their local or surrounding poodles, toe exactly the same line, often displaying more gusto, as many believe.


The triumph of outdated colonial mindset within the drug industry appears to be all pervasive, even today. It keeps striving hard to implement the self-serving corporate agenda, behind the façade of ‘Patient Centricity’. When the demography is changing at a faster pace in many important countries, such as India, a sizeable number of the critical decision makers don’t seem to understand, and can’t possibly fathom with finesse and precision, the changing mindset, aspirations and expectations of the millennial generation doctors and patients.

Expectedly, this approach is increasingly proving to be self-defeating, if not demeaning to many. It’s affecting the long term corporate performance, continually inviting the ire of the stakeholders, including Governments in various countries.

From this perspective, as the above survey results unravel, the millennial doctors and patients, with their changing mindset, aspirations, expectations and demands, look forward to an environment that matches up with the unique characteristics and values of their own generation.

To excel in this evolving scenario, especially in India – with one of the youngest demographic profiles, proper understanding of the nuances that’s driving this change, by the top echelon of the pharma management, is of utmost importance. Only then, can any strategic alignment of corporate business interests with the expectations of fast growing Millennials take shape, bridging the ongoing trust deficit of the stakeholders, as the pharma industry moves ahead with an accelerated pace.

By: Tapan J. Ray   

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.


‘Gen Y’: Contemporary Mindset For Pharma Transformation

Global Pharma industry, for various reasons, is still not adequately aligned with the legitimate needs and expectations of the civil society, which are some of the key purposes for its existence, across the world. Consequently, there seems to be a gradually increasing trust deficit between various governments and the pharma industry. This has been continuing over a long period of time, primarily due to opacity in the business conduct of the industry, spanning across a number of critical areas, especially related to R&D, Clinical Trials, Pricing, and Brand Marketing.

As a result, various stakeholders do not seem to be on the same page, when it comes to important issues and concerns related to patients’ interest.

A key differentiation for pharma consumers:

Ultimate consumers not being the purchase decision makers for prescription medicines, in general, unlike most other products, additionally, the market being highly monopolistic for many critical life-saving patented products, the argument of market force driven drug pricing does not hold much water. Even for branded generics in India, one can find a wide variation in retail prices within the same molecule and the higher priced brands in many cases, intriguingly, enjoy the brand leadership status too.

Thus, for prescription medicines, the following common question is reportedly being very often raised:

“If the one who decides, does not pay and the one who pays, does not decide and if the one who decides is ‘paid’, will truth stand any chance?”

This leads to a key question on one of the many important areas of opacity in the pharma industry, which is:

“If market forces decide product pricing, why do the doctors prescribe a particular company’s higher priced brand more often, instead of available replaceable brands of other pharma companies of equal repute, but with much lesser price?

Need for ‘fresh eyes’: 

It is imperative that such questions need effective resolution, sooner. However, this will require fresh pairs of eyes and not the existing ones.

Noting together various other similar examples, as well, of long unresolved growing discontent, as mentioned above, there is an urgent need for the industry to expedite a radical transformation in those areas with a new and contemporary vision for the interest of all – Pharma Players, the Governments and the Society at large.

‘Baby Boomers’ traditional mindset seems outdated:

Overall mindset of the senior leadership in the pharma sector, right from the country level up to their respective global headquarters, appears to have been insensitive to contemporary societal needs, too much self-serving, lacking innovativeness in problem solving approach, charting in a make- believe world with rigid views and suffering from an ‘Ostrich like Syndrome’, as it were.

One of the reasons of the above ‘Syndrome’ could well be that these leadership positions are still being driven by the ‘Pre-Baby Boomers’, ‘Baby Boomers’ and very few ‘Gen X’, including the one at the helm.  Interestingly, this is quite unlike other science driven sectors such as the ‘Digital Industry’ and their leaders like, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Incidentally, Zuckerberg also tops 2013 charity giving list.

Consequently, the long standing important pharma issues with the outside world, though are much known to all concerned, have still remained mostly unresolved. One of its reasons could possibly be attributed to the traditional mindset of the senior leadership of the industry, predominantly cultivating values of the ‘Baby Boomers’, which override the fast changing societal aspirations, expectations and demands. 

A time for ‘Gen Y’ leadership:

In such a scenario, to trigger a transformation in the pharma industry, the ‘Gen Y’, who reportedly looks at ‘Work’, ‘Life’ and ‘Society’ very differently, quite in tune with the time, as deliberated below, should be put on the saddle of the key leadership positions, sooner.

Handing over the baton should follow a well thought out and structured time-bound process. This is quite feasible, as those of ‘Gen Y’ born in 1983. have become over 30 years old now.

Mindset of ‘Gen Y’ is different and contemporary:

Various studies have clearly shown that the interplay between ‘Work’, ‘Life’ and ‘Society’ has undergone a fundamental change from the era of ‘Baby Boomers’ to Gen Y, as follows:

  • The generation ‘prior to the Baby Boomers’ (born before 1946) worked to live.
  • The ‘Baby Boomers’ (born between 1946 and 1964) live to work, which also becomes a very important part of their social status, identity and pride.
  • ‘Gen X’ (born between 1965 and 1982) works along with other interests and aspirations too, seeking a balance between work and life.
  • ‘Gen Y’ (born between 1983 and 2001) wants work and life to merge. Besides, according to a recent study, around 92 percent of Gen Y believes that business should be measured by more than just profit, having a clear societal focus along with the changing needs and aspirations of the people. As stated above, ‘Gen Y’ like, Mark Zuckerberg has already demonstrated it.

‘Inclusive’ approach of ‘Gen Y’, different from ‘Baby Boomers’:

Leadership behavior, as we know, is predominantly driven by values, which may either be sustainable over a longer period of time or just situation specific, working wonders in a given situation and ineffective when the situation changes. Thus there is a greater need for the organizations to help nurturing and developing leadership behavior, which is sustainable and not just situation specific.

In today’s scenario, to catalyze a transformation in the pharma industry, persons in leadership roles, especially if these are held by ‘Baby Boomers’, need to change the way they usually behave, directly or indirectly, with their colleagues and subordinates, as a typical ‘Gen Y’ person would not be inclined to respond to formal authority, social status or even power.

For ‘Gen Y’, as studies indicate, much important ‘Innovation’ agenda would not be restricted to just products and services, they would explore more innovative ways of doing business, making it more inclusive for all.

They would not focus on ‘Excellence’ only at the place of work, mainly for career progression and increased remuneration. ‘Excellence’ for the ‘Gen Y’, would extend to social and personal lives, as work and life merge for them. 

Unlike ‘Baby Boomers’ and for that matter even ‘Gen X’, the terminologies like. ‘Socialistic’ or ‘Nationalistic’ are not bad words for ‘Gen Y’, only used for making condescending remarks, as the new generation would ensure that the purpose of ‘Work’, ‘Life’ and ‘Society’ flow in the same direction, seamlessly.


At least the ‘Baby Boomers’, born approximately between 1946 and 1956, who live to work making it a very important part of their social identity and are still holding the key pharma leadership positions, should decide to gradually fade away, instead of pulling all available levers and tricks to keep hanging-on to the job. This is absolutely essential to create enough room for the ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ to take charge for much needed transformation in the pharma industry, 

The eternal tricks of many ‘Baby Boomers’ to keep the ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ waiting under their wings and thus making them impatient, could ultimately prove to be self-defeating, if not demeaning, affecting both individual and corporate performance.

I reckon, given an opportunity in a systematic manner, sooner, the ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ with their contemporary mindsets, would catalyze a meaningful transformation within the pharma industry ushering in much needed transparency for patients’ interest, aligning it well with the healthcare needs, aspirations and demands of the society and thereby, effectively bridging the trust deficit.

This is not just a wish. At least one younger top global pharma leader, probably belonging to ‘Gen X’, has started demonstrating the refreshing mindset of a change agent to the pharma world at large. As growing numbers of such pathfinders start taking charge, much awaited metamorphosis of the industry would help creating a glorious image that the sector so deserves for its otherwise yeomen contribution in the battle against diseases, the world over.

By: Tapan J. Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.