Pharmacists will need to change how they communicate with the rapidly changing demographic and behaviour of Australians, a prominent social researcher has told the APP2016 conference on the Gold Coast.

Mark McCrindle presented on the Healthy Futures Report, which talked to a representative cross sample of Australians about their attitudes to digital health, information gathering and the role of the community pharmacist.

McCrindle outlined a rapidly changing nation that has just welcomed its 24 millionth resident, where Melbourne is set to overtake Sydney as its largest city, reaching a population of 8 million by 2053, and where people are marrying and having children later than ever before.

Language is evolving rapidly – in only a few years the word “tablet” has come to mean a smart device as much as it means a medicine – and the world of the Gen Z and Alpha generations is interconnected, symbol-rich and very different from the world in which health professionals may be trying to communicate.

This has implications for medicines compliance, for example.

“We’Ve got a population that’s not all that compliant,” said McCrindle. The research shows that of recent prescribed medicines users nearly a third had missed the equivalent of three doses a month for daily medicine. 17% thought this wouldn’t affect the medicines’ effectiveness, and 21% thought the reduction would be slight.

Dr Google was used as a trusted source of health information by 36% of respondents, third after pharmacists at 61% and GPs at 77%.

In order to get cut-through with these people “You need to speak their language”.

Emerging generations are digital, global, mobile, extremely visual – to the point where they prefer to watch videos to get information rather than reading, preferring YouTube as a search engine to Google – and social.

“They don’t transact through the technology, they seamlessly integrate the technology into their lives.”

To communicate important data, pharmacists will need to “keep it real,” remain relevant, be responsive to change, and keep it relational – “we are part of the carer professions and that relationship, that trust, that communication with the ever changing customer is needed more than ever before”.