From the desk of the EMD: Reaching the millennial allergist

October 1, 2018

Why is it important to understand and reach the millennial allergist? In the near future, the largest percentage of physicians in the U.S. will be millennials, replacing the baby boomer generation. For allergy and the College to grow, understanding the needs of these allergists is paramount. In case you don’t know, the term millennial generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. It’s the millennial allergists who grew up with personal computers, smartphones, tablets and social media. It is this group that is less likely to scream and curse at electronic medical records (EMRs), as they are more familiar with technology than any previous generation.

There has been much written about the characteristics of these physicians. Last year, the American Medical Association, in partnership with online physician panel M3 Global Research, surveyed 200 physicians age 35 and younger. Here are some of their key findings: 34% of the respondents said the reality of practicing medicine is worse than they had anticipated, yet despite their frustrations, 83% said they are committed to their medical careers and actively want to contribute to the field over the course of their working lives. Another 12% reported they were somewhat likely to remain in the field. Roughly four out of five surveyed said they potentially hope to seek out non-patient care-related fields in addition to their full-time work. There appears to be the need for these “side gigs” to increase income due to the amount of student loan debt and decreased expectations of income from practice. 80% reported they were employees and only 15% said they were full or part owners of medical practices. 92% of those surveyed said that maintaining a work-life balance was important, but only 65% said they felt they had achieved a proper balance between the two at this point in their careers. It appears these doctors may be at a high risk for burnout.

Another survey of this group of doctors was performed late last year by DRG Digital | Manhattan Research. It was entitled "The Digital Native Doctor: How Millennial Physicians Are Engaging Online." The data highlighted that this is a tech savvy group of physicians. These doctors spend nearly five hours per day using their EMRs and another three hours consulting external digital resources such as search and websites for health care professionals. Wow, that’s tons of screen time. They source online medical journals and medical reference sites far more frequently than their older counterparts. More than a third of these younger clinicians (37%) used social networks and message boards for physicians on a weekly basis compared to 25% of baby boomer physicians. They’re much more likely to share online video with peers. There is no doubt these physicians are comfortable with information technology and using digital tools for decision support in caring for patients.

How does the College reach these young allergists? We have developed a Young Leadership Summit to give millennial allergists tools to become leaders in our field. Because we have increased our College Learning Connection with more and more educational opportunities (many for credit), the millennial allergist has a one-stop shop for digital allergy educational materials. The College is active on social media and the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is increasing its presence there. Our Physician Well-being Task Force and our Practice Management Committee have projects to help the millennial allergist reduce individual and practice stress. Under the auspices of Todd Mahr, MD, FACAAI, as program director for our meeting this November in Seattle, there have been major changes in the curriculum with fewer didactic lectures and more interactive sessions which will appeal not only to the millennials, but baby boomers like me. This is only the beginning. The College realizes that allergists’ needs are changing and will continue to change to meet those needs.

Michael Blaiss, MD, FACAAI, Executive Medical Director