This summer, a national poll found that 45% of 18- to 29-year-olds have no primary care provider. This is in contrast to 28% of 30- to 49-year-olds, 18% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 12% of those 65-years-old and older.
Younger patients are relying on clinics operated out of retail outlets, freestanding urgent care centers, and online telemedicine options. Younger patients prefer these alternative medical providers because they offer flexible schedules, expanded hours of operation, quick appointments, and short wait times. Additionally, the pricing structure at these providers are often more transparent, which is important to patients who are paying costs out of pocket.
However, experts warn that the lack of a long-term, one-on-one relationship with a primary care physician may lead to worsened outcomes. Without a central organizer reviewing a patient’s medical care, care can become fragmented and duplicative.
Traditional primary care providers are accommodating younger patients by providing same-day appointments and electronic connectivity. Plans can likewise accommodate younger participants by covering these alternative medical providers for acute conditions. However, plans may also consider steering participants to a primary care doctor relationship, as that relationship may lead to better comprehensive outcomes.