For years, office-based primary care visits have been a staple of American healthcare. However, millennials—the roughly 83 million Americans born between 1981 and 1996—seem to prefer the convenience, speed, connectivity, and price transparency of retail clinics, free-standing urgent care centers, and online telemedicine sites over traditional doctor’s appointments, reports The Washington Post.
In a national poll conducted in July by the Kaiser Family Foundation that surveyed 1,2000 randomly selected adults, it was found that 26% said they did not have a primary care provider. When that percentage was broken down by age groups, there was a staggering difference. 45% of 18- to 29-year-olds had no primary-care provider, compared with 28% of respondents aged 30 to 49, 18% of those 50 to 64, and 12% aged 65+.
A 2017 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates showed similar numbers: 33% of millennials reported not having a regular doctor, compared with 15% of those aged 50 to 64.
“There is a generational shift. These trends are more evident among millennials, but not unique to them. I think people’s expectations have changed. Convenience [is prized] in almost every aspect of our lives, from shopping to online banking,” Ateev Mehrotra, MD, an associate professor at Boston’s Harvard Medical School, is quoted as saying in the article.
This shift is upending the office-based primary care model, with more primary care practices hiring on additional physicians or nurse practitioners in an effort to reduce wait times, as well as embracing digital tools, such as patient portals, in an attempt to woo millennials back to primary care, not only for the practice’s bottom line, but for patient safety.
Some experts warn that straying from the traditional primary care model may be driving up health costs and worsening the problem of unnecessary care, including the dangerous misuse of antibiotics.
“We all need care that is coordinated and longitudinal. Regardless of how healthy you are, you need someone who knows you,” said Michael Munger, MD, President of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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