Family physician, author, blogger, speaker, physician leader.

Millennials Are Dropping Primary Care Because Want Convenience. Not a Bad Thing.

The Kaiser Health News article Spurred By Convenience, Millennials Often Spurn The ‘Family Doctor’ Model caught my eye. Millennial patients want “convenience, fast service, connectivity and price transparency” while doctors and health experts worry about “fragmented or unnecessary care, including the misuse of antibiotics” and loss of  “care that is coordinated and longitudinal”. It’s as if the needs of the patients and the concerns of doctors are mutually exclusive.

They are not.

The challenge is the current health care system does not provide for both.

What Do Patients Want?

In November 2005, a survey published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found then when judging quality of care, respondents found these traits to be very important:

  • 90% the provider’s ability to communicate well
  • 89% getting timely care
  • 85% the ability to easily get care and treatment
  • 81% found the coordination of care, ability of doctor or hospital to access complete medical records

In other words, coordinated care is less important than the ease of care and timeliness of care.

If a world existed where one could get great convenient accessible care with the same doctor, wouldn’t millennials opt for that? Wouldn’t the rest of us?

This is what we’ve found consistently when providing care to patients via our direct to consumer online doctor’s office Lemonaid Health. When speaking to patients on why they chose us for their care, invariably they list many of the following reasons:

  • Primary care doctor not available in a timely manner. Typically it can be 2 to 3 weeks to a few months. One Arkansas woman said she needs to call 1 year in advance to get a Pap smear and couldn’t wait that long to get evaluated for birth control.
  • Doctor is not available on weekends or nights.
  • Patient has moved, changed jobs, or goes to school and can’t see doctor because of geography.
  • Patient no longer has health insurance and can’t see her doctor.

In other words, given a choice, patients including millennials, would prefer to see a doctor that they know and trust. However, they aren’t willing to sacrifice the convenience that we’ve all come to expect in other aspects of our lives for that relationship alone. As a Washington Post article noted, only 15% of patients could email their doctor and only 1 in 5 could book an appointment online. Something as basic as emailing a doctor, is something most Americans cannot do, yet school aged children routinely email their teachers and classmates as part of their education. Currently what services the patient’s need for convenience are urgent cares and emergency rooms and that’s simply because they have extended hours or are open 24/7 respectively and widely available.

Technologically Enabled Primary Care Is the Solution

What we lack is a national or even large regional health care organizations that can consistently provide scale, connectivity, organization and capital that we see in other aspects of our lives when using goods or services. Perhaps it is this gap which is causing major investments in technologically enabled primary care. One Medical Group received $350 million in funding to expand its network of 8 primary care clinics in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston, to a national presence. Oscar Health through its integrated health insurance and primary care clinics and Forward, with its sleek and futuristic doctor offices, promise and deliver connectivity between patients and doctors in ways we take for granted everywhere else and do so with high patient satisfaction. As one of my colleagues told me the other day, “you can’t make me quit One Medical Group”. She travels to both coasts regularly and finds having this solution ideal for her entrepreneurial job.

Other approaches to scale primary care use technology without bricks and mortar much the same way Airbnb has done for lodging and Uber for on-demand transportation to make connections and provide service. Health care companies like Sherpaa and SteadyMD use integrated employed doctors to provide the connections that patients want to have with doctors which are both high tech and high touch. Having an infrastructure that supports building doctor-patient relationships, values the relationship long-term, and using technology will provide convenience, accessibility, and care that not just millennials want, but all of us do.

Perhaps the best part of the Kaiser Health News article is that it highlighted what Millennials want in our health care system.

It is what we all want.

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