Will Primary Care Physicians Go the Way of the Landline?

More than half of millennials (adults aged 23 to 38) use retail clinics, urgent care centers, and even ERs over old-fashioned visits to their primary care physicians (PCPs). Why is this, and how will it affect the future of PCPs?

One recent study found that millennials often avoid doctor visits altogether, instead first seeking information from Google and WebMD when they suffer symptoms. Because millennials grew up with access to more information and technology, they want the ease of online scheduling if they do choose to visit a doctor, and they may prefer telemedicine over traditional doctor visits.

This generation feels time-stressed, according to many reports, so waiting to see a PCP may not fit their busy lifestyles. Millennials may also lack the job security that would enable them to use paid sick time to visit their PCPs. Instead, they often wait until they are so sick that they visit urgent care facilities or the emergency room, which offers later hours.

They are taking a risk, however. According to International Business Times, this less structured medical treatment can increase medical costs and lead to poorer health outcomes. With no PCP, a lack of continuity in medical treatment when one is ill can result in a missed diagnosis, medication errors, and rising healthcare costs.

Responding to this change in medical delivery, the healthcare industry is developing new delivery models, including drop-in clinics at drugstores and increased telemedicine offerings. Driven by younger consumers’ demand for price transparency, medical providers are increasingly discussing prices with their younger patients. According to Forbes magazine, the growing cost of insurance means this generation may delay traditional visits.