A key demographic trend has begun to play out in medicine: a wave of younger doctors entering the field.
National statistics show nearly 30 percent of actively licensed U.S. physicians have reached at least age 60, within range of the profession’s average target retirement age of 68. Meanwhile, there’s been an uptick in the number of physicians under age 40, along with an 8 percent spike in medical school enrollments between 2012 and 2016.
One can also foresee an influx of younger doctors as millennials, born between 1982 and 2000, and a quarter of the U.S. population, take up employment across industries.
A Time of Change
As new doctors emerge from residency and build their experience, a foundational challenge will be keeping up with medical knowledge, which is projected to double in scale every 73 days by 2020.
In life sciences alone, more than 40 percent of surveyed companies expect to see their data volumes increase by at least 50 percent in the coming year.
Nonetheless, “the constant change in medicine is one of the things that makes being a doctor a great privilege,” writes Elisabeth Poorman, MD, as she embarks on a practice in primary care.
Indeed, research indicates that this type of outlook translates into action. Younger physicians tend to rally behind scientific sources of information, such as Medical Affairs professionals, rather than rely on the word of pharma sales reps, according to management consultancy Bain & Company.
What Sets Young Docs Apart?
Do younger physicians process and maintain pharma information in different ways than their older colleagues did in the past? It’s time to address that question, bearing in mind the following factors about young doctors:
- They bring a fresh perspective. Granted, the same could be said for any millennial job entrant, but recently graduated physicians arrive having survived uniquely high-pressure rotations, during which they naturally questioned the status quo. Young doctors are in position “to see medicine’s pain points and then dream up a fix,” observes entrepreneur Shantanu Gaur, MD.
- They’re swayed by the science. 95 percent of millennial providers learn about pharma advances from scientific publications. They take great stock in the credibility and weight of not only journals, but peers and CME events as well – when the science is sound and findings are evidence-based.
- They accept and leverage new technology. Electronic health records and medical apps are the acknowledged norm for upcoming practitioners. Some made it through medical school leaning on educational video streams rather than in-person classes. Fifty-four percent of surveyed millennials said they would not work in a non-computerized emergency department. They seek ways to streamline care and make it more efficient through emerging ideas and applications.
- They are receptive to new treatment approaches. New doctors’ workday attitudes stem from a proactive approach to their own personal health and a more holistic lifestyle. As such, expect them to have open views about today’s increasingly complex and personalized drugs.
- They work more collaboratively with patients. There’s been a shift away from the “doctor-as-parent” mindset among younger physicians. Compared to their predecessors, newer doctors are more likely to present patients with several treatment options, which could include the latest drug indications.
Young professionals have already begun to gain authority within the medical domain. Accordingly, Medical Affairs teams that effectively curate and deliver the right information to the new generation of doctors will gain a strong foothold in facilitating healthcare decisions for years to come.