The oldest millennials are pushing 40 now, and – because they are the largest adult generation – their decisions and preferences help shape healthcare delivery.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has made all of us rethink our healthcare needs and consider where – and to whom – we should reach out for medical care if necessary. At a time like this, especially, it makes sense to be able to have a relationship with a trusted source for information and personalized care. This is no time to be walking into a crowded clinic or emergency room.
Millennials are less likely than older generations to have primary care physicians (PCP), with about a third opting out of that traditional entryway to healthcare, according to a leading insurer. Many prefer so-called “retail” options, like walk-in clinics and urgent care – even telemedicine - rather than traditional appointments at a doctor’s office.
Because of this, millennials may be less likely to seek preventative care or treatment for chronic conditions. Urgent care is reactive and often impersonal, while primary care, at its best, is preventative and allows for a relationship between patient and doctor.
The lines can be a little fuzzy, but millennials generally were born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. They are now are in their mid-20s, 30s and 40s, usually the busiest time of life when it comes to career and family responsibilities. They may be concerned with healthy lifestyles, but they are pressed for time.
A shortage of PCPs means an appointment to see one can take time. It is important providers make an effort to reach millennials, with accommodations like walk-in hours, text and email replies, and a social media presence. Millennials are digital natives and doctors have to make the effort to reach them on platforms that make sense.
I try to be as accessible as possible, post regularly on social media, give patients my cell number and sometimes even make home visits. Doctors can blend old-school caring and community-building with modern communication.
Surveys have found millennials are more likely to forgo healthcare because of expense: They are more cost-conscious than baby boomers who came of age in an era of lower co-pays and premiums.
For sure, high costs and the dictates of the insurance industry have made things more complicated for primary care delivery. There is pressure to see more patients per hour and produce more documentation per patient, and that takes away from patient care.
The high cost of medical education prompts many recent grads to specialize so as to earn more and cover school loans. But we can’t lose sight of the vital frontline role of PCPs. I’m in practice in Hudson County, where I grew up and which is underserved by PCPs.
The Benefits of Having a PCP
Medicine is an art as well as a science and relationships are important in healthcare. PCPs can coordinate patient care, understand how family situation affects patient health, advise on the best treatment options and refer to appropriate specialists.
Preventative medicine can ward off a host of maladies: treating hypertension before it leads to stroke, or high cholesterol before it affects cardiovascular health. A PCP can track a patient over time. This is especially important as millennials age.
In the long run a relationship with a PCP will provide better and more cost-effective healthcare.
Jonathan Dominguez, MD, is a Holy Name Medical Partners primary care physician, whose office is located in Hudson County. Dr. Dominguez specializes in family medicine and cares for patients from infancy through adulthood. To make an appointment with him, call 201-351-3177 or visit HolyNameMedicalPartners.org.