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Are millennials avoiding the primary care doctor?

Written by Dr. Daliah Wachs
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A recent analysis from Kaiser Family Foundation found the average younger American does not have a primary care provider (PCP).

Looking at survey answers from 1200 participants,  45% of 18 – 29 year-olds admitted to not having a PCP.  28% of those aged 30-49 and 18% of those aged 50-64 said the same. Those over age 65 were the largest group to have a primary care provider.

Those born between 1981-1996, known as the Millennials, may have different attitudes towards health care.  Keep in mind, they just lived through nearly a decade of recession, computer hacks, Obamacare controversies, and societal distrust of pharmaceutical companies.

PCP’s however are the “quarterback” in one’s healthcare, keeping accurate and thorough records on one’s medical history, addressing immediate and chronic issues, and coordinating where their patient needs to go if a specialist is needed.

But Millennials, instead, are preferring urgent cares, retail clinics, emergency rooms, or using telemedicine for their medical needs.

 

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However if one, unknowingly, suffers from a chronic condition and has various acute issues, they may be misdiagnosed because they are receiving piecemeal care without someone overseeing them and connecting the dots.

Diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, syphilis, AIDS, neurological disorders and autoimmune illnesses are just a few that may cause intermittent acute episodes before becoming deadly.  Someone needs to take a step back, look at one’s medical history and properly diagnose, or simply put, see the forest from the trees.

So why the hesitation to commit to a primary care provider?

 

  1. Many aren’t sick.  They don’t need to have follow-up or chronic issues managed so find an urgent care or emergency room visit sufficient for their acute issues.
  2. They prefer not to have a record of their “life story.” Privacy is huge in this generation who has grown up with social media and smartphone pictures logging their every move.  They may want their STD to be long forgotten once they leave the clinic.
  3. They prefer knowing the price ahead of time and having “closure” once the visit is complete.  The concept of seeing a medical provider and then receiving a bill 3 months later and then following up on a condition is foreign to many who want to address an issue once and move on.
  4. They may not be at the same job, hence have the same insurance for long.  It’s common for the average Millennial to explore career paths and do not expect to be at one place of employment for “life”. Hence if their job changes, so will their insurance, and therefore the medical provider list offered.
  5. The internet provides medical advice.  Some feel rather than have a doctor visit to learn about a medical condition, it’s cheaper and more convenient to read the medical article oneself.
  6. “The doctor doesn’t spend time with me anyway.” They more often don’t get out of a doctor visit what we used to with time, hand holding, education and patience with all our questions.  Providers are busy these days and offer short office visits.

Our healthcare system is changing and the needs of the younger generation appear to be better met by clinics that charge up front, address a single issue, and provide convenient hours.   Therefore “primary care” providers will still be needed, however, the art of “primary care” may evolve into a whole new beast.

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.