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Op-Ed: What Healthcare Can Learn From Gen Y

I am a Gen-Xer. We are a generation that I think is most aptly described as hardworking, rule-following, law-abiding, and productive. That’s a good thing, right? Most of the time, sure.

Where we go wrong is we work hard, follow the rules, and do what we are told even when our hearts are not in it. I have too many times overheard, and if I am being completely honest, have even participated in, the millennial-bashing conversations about work ethic.

But I think we owe millennials a little more credit. I will even go a step further and say that I envy them for two specific qualities: They ask questions, and they set boundaries.

For us Gen-Xers, there is a “that’s just the way it is” and “you can’t fight city hall” kind of acceptance of some of life’s struggles. But millennials/Gen Y don’t accept a struggle until they’ve asked why and offered a thoughtful debate or campaign in response. And as evidenced by the Reddit/GameStop revolution, they are willing to collaborate.

The recent events in the stock market surrounding the GameStop stock-buying frenzy made headlines and waves. I will not pretend that I understand these events’ technicalities because I do not, but I understand something that I think is even more important: A group of individuals, outsiders, and underdogs in a rigged game that they were never meant to win got together, played by the rules, and won.

I thought immediately of our healthcare system, and I felt hopeful. For a long time, rule-following doctors and patients have unquestioningly participated and have been the underdogs in this game of healthcare and have accepted “that’s just the way it is.” But it’s time to take a page from Gen Y and challenge the status quo.

We have what is undeniably the best healthcare in the world. We do not have the best healthcare system, and we should. We need to ask why.

We need to set boundaries around the doctor-patient relationship and stop allowing this collaboration’s commoditization. Without patients and the doctors who do their best to care for them, there is no commerce in healthcare.

So why is commerce the focal point of our system? If doctors and doctors, patients and patients, and most importantly, doctors and patients can come together and collaborate, we can make healthcare the focus again, as it should be.

Maryanna Barrett, MD, is an ob/gyn and can be reached through her blog, Not a Commodity.

This post appeared on KevinMD.

Last Updated February 19, 2021