Why And How To Be In-Sync With Gen Z As Pharma Paradigm Shifts?

As science and technology, across the world, are progressing at a scorching pace – Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding, today’s generations are growing up tech savvy – more than ever before. The trend will keep going north faster and with a steeper gradient. This is being driven by transforming social and economic environments – necessitating quicker solutions to any needs, problems, and expectations.

The current signals, as underscored by an article appeared in the Abbott Website on November 19, 2019: ‘Generation Z’s relationship with technology will also influence how the group relates to healthcare.’ Thus, it’s no secret that millennials approach their health care in drastically different ways than members of the Silent Generation, baby boomers or Gen Z, the article added.

Which is why, gradually shifting paradigm of the pharma industry would also eventually create a brand new one – with the Gen Z population growing at a faster pace. From the above perspective, in today’s article, I shall focus on the importance of this shifting paradigm, especially from the pharma industry perspective, including India.

Expectations and experience of Gen Z are contrasting:

Let me start with the definition of Gen Z. In January 2019, Pew Research defined Gen Z as anyone born after1996, just as ‘anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial.’ Gen Z grew up with technology, the internet, and social media. Moreover, according to another study of Pew Research, published on May 14, 2020, Gen Z is growing up having experienced catastrophic disruptions in almost all spheres of life and livelihoods, triggered by Covid-19 pandemic. It further ascertained, ‘the oldest Gen Zers have been particularly hard hit in the early weeks and months of the Coronavirus crisis.’

Thus, I reckon, the experience and expectations of many of such Gen Z from business and overall environment around – are quite different from earlier generations. More importantly, they will also have a strong influence on younger ones. Hence, the expected transformation would be much broader than what is currently visible today on the ground.

Some core characteristics of Gen X from pharma business perspective:

Various studies have captured the core characteristics of Gen Z, some of which are very relevant to pharma industry and are worth taking note of – for excellence in business performance. These include the followings:

Digital natives:

As McKinsey & Company highlighted in an article, published on November 12, 2018 that Gen Z is the first generation of true digital natives, and they are expanding. Whereas Millennials were regarded as ‘digital pioneers,’ who bore wit­ness to the explo­sion of tech­nol­o­gy and social media, Gen Z populations are born into a world of peak tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion. In that environment infor­ma­tion is imme­di­ate­ly acces­si­ble and social media becoming increas­ing­ly ubiquitous – endorses another study by the Casey Foundation with its own findings on the core characteristics of Gen Z.

Financial minded:

Finan­cial mind­ed­ness is anoth­er core char­ac­ter­is­tic of Gen­er­a­tion Z for several reasons. A major one being, as discussed – many of them grew up witnessing unprecedented impact on lives and livelihoods caused by Covid-19 pandemic. Several other studies, like the one published recently by the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, indicates that millennials and Gen Z are especially sensitive to healthcare costs.

Shrewd consumers and cost-value conscious:

Gen Z show characteristics of shrewd consumers and are also cost-value conscious. Being tech savvy, they are more influenced by fast-expanding digital, world and would like to make well-informed purchasing decisions after evaluating a range of options – both for products and services. They tend to be more influenced by the experience of real-life users, rather than a celebrity endorsement and val­ue per­son­al­ized prod­ucts.

Gen Z to herald metamorphosis of future healthcare:

That it is happening gets retreated in the caption of the Fierce Healthcare article of June 16, 2020 – ‘Industry Voices -Generation Z is a game changer for healthcare.’ It emphasized, ‘Generation Z – are likely to turn the health industry on its head with their unique expectations for how healthcare should be delivered.’

Convenience is such a paramount for Gen Z that they are often willing to forgo a personal relationship with their healthcare provider. Besides, they will come to their physician and provider armed with data, information, and knowledge, unlike the past generations. Consequently, the danger for providers is, if Gen Z doesn’t get that desired convenience, they’ll go elsewhere, the article says. Simultaneously, ‘they also want a trusted adviser who can guide them toward holistic health and wellness.’ Thus, delivering patient-centric care, capitalizing on real-world data and automated care experiences, will be key to the transformative process of healthcare.

A recent survey also vindicates that the transformation has begun:

A recent Accenture healthcare consumer survey reiterated: “The new healthcare consumer is here.” The study clearly signaled a paradigm shift in this space spearheaded by millennials and Gen Z. Some of the survey findings encompass the following areas:

  • This group of healthcare consumer expectations for convenience, affordability and quality are redefining how they engage at each stage of care.
  • They are most dissatisfied with health care’s status quo and more willing to try non-traditional services, such as, virtual care and retail walk-in clinics, which are gaining in popularity and use with them.
  • With greater health care needs, they will increasingly look for services to satisfy their expectations for effectiveness, convenience, efficiency, and transparency.
  • With millennials and Gen Z to become the largest generation in not-too-distant future, they hold the most power to influence future healthcare models.

Some pharma players are tracking Gen Z and the changing paradigm:

Some global majors, such as Abbott, are also writing about it in their website Abbott.com. The Company has noted some of these changes, as follows:

  • Generation Z’s relationship with technology will influence how the group relates to healthcare. While growing up in a fully connected world, they ‘are less likely to have primary care providers and are more likely to use apps for scheduling, viewing medical records and paying bills.’ They are also more receptive to telehealth visits and connected healthcare than previous generations.
  • With the wait times for an appointment with a doctor growing longer, Gen X populations are more likely to use walk-in clinics or opt for urgent care centers which are more convenient.
  • Self-service and convenience play into Gen Z’s interactions with doctor’s and the industry as a whole. They prefer email, texting, and apps to manage their appointments or communications with doctors. Finding ways to communicate with this younger generation in their preferred modes, can help keep them engaged with the industry.
  • Millennials and Gen Z populations are most likely to use a wearable device. They typically reach out to friends or online communities to ask about a particular health condition before speaking with a doctor. Although they aren’t the groups using the more healthcare services, millennials and members of Gen Z are showing what the health industry needs to do to provide the best care.

Size of Gen Z population in India:

According to EY Gen Z survey, released on November 04, 2021, the next decade will be shaped by the maturation of Gen Z, the largest generational cohort in history, where India stands out with a population that includes 375 million people or 27% of the total population in Gen Z. Besides, the survey also underscores the importance of Gen Z in the shifting paradigm of market dynamics for the pharma industry, as well.

Conclusion:

Currently, healthcare industry, in general, and most drug companies, in particular -especially, in India, don’t seem to nurture the fast-growing population of Gen Z with a customer engagement strategy that they can relate to. What these players are currently marketing is mostly aimed at traditional customers, and who still form the majority.

Exploring these evolving changes, I wrote an article in this blog, on November 07, 2016. This was titled ‘Millennial Generation Doctors And Patients: Changing Mindset, Aspirations, And Expectations.’ However, the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 pandemic, alongside rapid advancement and adaptation of digital technology, tools, and platforms, has expedited this process.Apace with these changes the pharma paradigm is also shifting, at a much faster pace than ever before. Which is why, I reckon, it’s important for the entire health care industry in India to be in-sync with Gen Z expectations and engage them, accordingly.

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.

 

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