Healthcare: How to Link the Generations


We have extremes in how we manage our healthcare. Some generations have little or no experience with technology. Sending an email can be a challenge for some. Other generations, especially the Millennials, are all about technology, especially if it’s mobile.

Put this in terms of years, and we can begin to see why.

On the one end of the spectrum, there are the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, spanning the years 1900 to 1964. Familiarity with technology increases as you move closer to 1964, but it did not exist in their formative years. The next generations, Generation X to Millennials, span from 1965 to 2000. Comfort levels with technology increases significantly with these generations, as it began to take hold during the work years for Generation X and is all encompassing for Millennials.

There are gaping holes between the generations, in terms of technology use.

The healthcare industry is undergoing a technology revolution of sorts. Government incentive programs are in place for care providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) and offer patients their data in an electronic form. Providers, because of the incentives, are highly motivated to deliver data electronically to their patients.

Now, the questions are these:

  • How will the Traditionalists respond to: “Your lab results will be available on our portal”?
  • How will Baby Boomers deal with glucose monitors on their mobile device?
  • How will Generation X work with collecting and managing their medical data or the medical data of their parents?
  • How will Millennials accept not being able to use their phone to check out at a physician’s office?

The answer to these questions will be very challenging for some, frustrating for others, and annoying for those accustomed to easy technology interactions.

The better question becomes:

How do we bridge the gap between the generations?

It is a question aimed directly at and added to “Where is your health leadership?”

The answer may be rather simple. We need to reach out and work across the generations.

  • For sons and daughters, setting up accounts for your aging parents and showing them how to access certain information may help.
  • For parents and grandparents, it will be asking youth for assistance and guidance on how all this healthcare “stuff” works on their mobile devices.

It is about reaching out to help each other, bringing extreme patience to our interactions.

Here are five suggestions:

  • Spend time with your grandparents and parents, asking them about current health concerns and health lessons learned over the years.
  • Find out if the elderly in your community know how to email confidently or how to connect with family and friends on Facebook.
  • Ask your older relatives how their physicians are wanting to engage them electronically and then help them and answer their questions.
  • Show other generations how you are tracking your own health and managing your physical well-being.
  • Discuss the use of healthcare technology, mobile apps, and digital devices with different generations in the workplace. It is not a discussion about private health issues; it is a chat on how to better use technology to manage personal health.

Linking generations is about engaging conversations and exchanging information. Most importantly, it is about sharing experiences across the ages. We need to invest the time.

How have you bridged the generational healthcare technology gap? What suggestions would you add?


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily The University of Texas at Austin.

About The Author

Jon Mertz

Vice President of Marketing, Corepoint Health

Jon Mertz is the Vice President of Marketing at Corepoint Health, a leading healthcare integration software company. Jon has extensive experience in...


#1 Great article Jon! Our

Great article Jon! Our parents and grandparents have taught each of us so much. It's time to give back by educating them about the benefits of connected healthcare. It's all about showing them the benefit of having the information at their fingertips. My dad already gets it, and apparently so does his doctor. When I recently asked my father about one of his lab results he logged into a website a told me not only his latest lab result, but also how this lab value had varied over the past 6 years. Go dad!

#2 What a great example, Walter!

What a great example, Walter! "Go dad!" is right! Spending the time to work with him and to get him comfortable with technology goes a long way in reaching across generations and learning from each other. So, I would add "Go Walter!" Thanks for the comment! Jon

#3 Boy this article hits home

Boy this article hits home for me. My 84-year-old mother has recently moved in with my wife and me. I've never been very good at tracking the information on my own health, and now we have to be her facilitators for a myriad of doctors and treatments. She would be lost without our assistance. Her generation is largely cut off from modern information exchange. Thanks for highlighting an issue I had never considered before. As a society we can't just implement a solution to a problem without considering how the generations will accept and adapt to it.

#4 You are right, David. We need

You are right, David. We need to think about the generational differences and consider how we can work together across the generations to bring everyone along. As we all age and work with our parents, we gain a new appreciation for this and realize another level of importance in what we are doing together with them. Thanks! Jon

#5 Jon, this is a great article!

Jon, this is a great article! I always enjoy generational conversations and how we, as a society, can accept and learn from the different experiences of each generation. "We need to reach out and work across the generations... It is about reaching out to help each other, bringing extreme patience to our interactions." Your comment is spot on, particularly your comment on patience and the need for humility. We need to recognize the strengths in other generations and use them to our advantage. Similarly, all generations must be open and accepting of guidance and advice from those different than ourselves. Millennials certainly have something to learn from Traditionalists, and vice versa. Thanks again for a great article! It was an enjoyable read and a great way to kick off my " critical thinking" for the day.

#6 Really appreciate your

Really appreciate your comment and insights, Erica! Love that you brought humility into the mix, as this value is very important in almost every aspect of life. In healthcare conversations, humility will keep our perspective grounded and focused on the purpose of the conversation. It will help facilitate a meaningful exchange on how to use health technology and ask questions without any fear of expectation. Across the generations, each has so much to offer, and we need to engage each other so that the quality of care rises with our times. Thanks again! Jon

#7 Amazing document

Amazing document Mertz.Doctors need to learn new forms of social media in order to be effective in marketing of their services in this new forms.Doctors need to learn this new advances. Erick Kinuthia Team

#8 Thanks, Erick. Physician use

Thanks, Erick. Physician use of social media can help close the gaps, but the various generations within a family and community may be able to able more. With their attention, examples, and time, they can show, talk, and help in how to use some of the basics of health technology. Thanks for the comment! Jon

#9 Why is bridging the gap

Why is bridging the gap important?

#10 Great question. The primary

Great question. The primary reason it is important is due to the fact that healthcare is leveraging more and more technology. Rather than always receiving paper, patient data will be sent electronically, whether through secure email or portal technology. Having some familiarity with technology will assist in gaining access to and community with various care providers. Thanks for the question! Jon

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