Millennials Opt for Cheaper, Faster Alternatives to Primary Care

What’s New

Millennials are nearly twice as likely as other adults to not have a primary care doctor. Recently released data from a national poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45 percent of respondents 18-29 years old don’t have a primary care physician. This tracks closely with a 2017 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which found that 33 percent of millennials did not have a regular doctor, compared with 15 percent of 50-64 year olds.

What It Means

A generational shift is occurring with millennials and their choices when it comes to primary care. The 83 million millennials born between 1981 and 1996 are proving to be sharply different from previous generations in how they seek care — opting for convenience and lower price over maintaining a relationship with a primary care doctor.

Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., an internist and associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, told Kaiser Health News that it isn’t just millennials who feel this way. They’re just far more apt to make their care decisions with these factors in mind. As the KHN report notes, that could be a costly choice in the long run for millennials and the health care system. It could lead to worsening the problem of fragmentation or unnecessary care, including the misuse of antibiotics. Likewise, even though walk-in clinics in retail settings and elsewhere can bring the speed and transparent pricing millennials demand, these professionals don’t have the personal knowledge of a patient’s long-term history and often don’t coordinate care.

6 Ways to Engage Millennials

Many primary care practices are exploring strategies and tactics to connect with millennials more effectively. Here are six options experts say to consider:

  • Devise strategies to facilitate same-day and/or Saturday appointments.
  • Use patient portals and other digital tools to facilitate communication between patients and doctors.
  • Offer video visits.
  • Enable appointment scheduling through smartphones.
  • Connect with patients through electronic interfaces. Millennials, in particular, are more comfortable communicating via text messaging and other electronic means.
  • Reinforce to millennials the value of having a long-term relationship. Provide more education on wellness and prevention to avoid more serious health problems.

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