As a primary care physician (PCP), you may feel as though you are less at the forefront of healthcare than you once were. This may be due in part to younger generation's tendencies to opt for other options, but that doesn't need to be the case. Understanding these shifts in healthcare and the priorities of these generations, combined with implementation of certain technologies, can help you adapt.
PCPs are still important
In the healthcare world, PCPs are being unfairly pushed to a second-tier status. Compounded by the decrease in reimbursements and increase in compliance costs, we’re seeing a shortage of PCPs. In 2019, the percentage of primary care residency positions filled by medical students in the United States was the lowest on record, though positions offered reached a record high. Is this because they aren’t needed? Evidence suggests they actually may be one of the most important factors for preventative care. Adults, regardless of generation, who have a PCP are more likely to seek care that is designed to avoid significant health issues in the future. According to a study by JAMA International Medicine, adults with primary care were significantly more likely to receive high-value care such as cancer screenings, including colorectal cancer screening and mammography. In fact, PCPs may be a missing link in our current healthcare system that we are overlooking. So, where is the current disconnect for the millennial generation?
Millennials have different healthcare views than previous generations. Unsurprisingly, this generation, which makes up the majority of the U.S. labor force, is prioritizing convenience and immediacy over relationships. According to a 2017 survey it takes “an average of 24 days to schedule a new patient physician appointment in 15 of the largest cities in the U.S.” Knowing this, it is no surprise that millennials are seeking out same-day appointments from urgent care facilities. Considering this demographic and the ones that follow could make or break the future of PCPs as we know it, convenience should be at the forefront of our minds when developing a strategy to adapt.
Millennials are also hyper sensitive to the cost of healthcare. Urgent care facilities generally incur a low out-of-pocket cost, typically around $40 per visit, while a visit to a PCP is $106 on average. At face value, millennials are making the clear choice for immediate savings, but aren’t considering the cost saving benefits of preventative care that PCPs offer. On average, Americans who have a primary care provider have 33 percent lower health care costs than those who only use specialists. PCPs need to communicate their value and quality of care in a way PCPs currently aren’t doing effectively on their own.
What Needs to Change
Convenience, affordability and collaboration need to be at the core of the paradigm shift for PCPs. By serving as a hub of all medical records, PCPs can become the one-stop convenience that millennials are currently seeking in urgent care practices. Organizing current patient records and linking them to their historical records creates a holistic view of each patient, even if their past care was from another office. Having a technology that can execute these administrative tasks frees up physician time leading to high quality care and reducing wait times for appointments.
It’s proven that patients can save money by seeing their PCP as opposed to going directly to the specialist, but in the cases where a specialist may be needed, it is imperative that records can easily be shared among the PCP and specialist to prevent the burden falling on the patient. If a millennial sees a doctor while traveling, they should not need to worry about how to get the information to their PCP at home and conversely how to communicate their medical history to their physician abroad.
Offering a video visit service can also help to retain millennial patients by allowing them to have an appointment from anywhere in the world. This is especially impactful in times of COVID-19 and beyond while many may still be uncomfortable with in-person appointments. A technology that allows organization and storage of historical and current medical records, collaboration with specialists when needed and video visits will be the first step to proving the value of PCP to millennials.
PCPs may feel forgotten by the younger generations. But this doesn’t have to be the case if PCPs learn to adapt using technology. They need to offer a solution that organizes patient data, is accessible from anywhere and can easily provide the full picture for a patient with little administrative burden so that you can spend more time providing quality care for individuals of all ages.