Give millennials what they need in health care

Another study reiterates what we already know: In droves, millennials are venturing away from the traditional model of securing a primary care provider and opting not to access health care “as usual.”

Still, too many physicians do little more than shake their heads over this. We wonder when millennials will figure out they need a medical home for the best possible care – especially when a medical emergency occurs.

But, guess what? They think they have figured it out. Now it’s up to us to figure out how to work within the parameters millennials are setting.

America’s biggest generation

They number about 83 million in the U.S., surpassing Baby Boomers as the biggest generation in our nation today. Now in their early 20s and mid-30s, they’re old enough now to build careers, grow families and care for elderly “boomer” parents.

They’ve come to count on convenience, fast service, immediate connectivity, and clear pricing to get a lot more done than previous generations. Almost every business has altered its practices – and continues to do so – to accommodate millennials’ needs.

A remarkable, recent example: buying food. For generations, we drove to stores, walked the aisles, made selections, checked out and drove home. Today, from Amazon to nearby grocery stores, online orders can be placed and either be delivered home or picked up curbside. For parents of small children, this can be a Godsend. No plucking kids from car seats and strapping them back in afterward. No more hour-long shopping trips and waiting in checkout lines.

So why should we expect millennials to call a specified primary care provider and make an appointment offered at the doctor’s convenience? Or wait days or even weeks for an appointment? And disrupt a usually too-busy, 8-to-5 day (or their children’s often busy schedule) to drive to and from a specific doctor’s office, sometimes during heavy commute times?

Being pre-middle aged makes it harder for millennials to see the danger in opting to navigate health care on their own — visiting walk-in clinics to treat an illness or injury.

Evolving care model

Of course, the medical home model is ideal for every patient. But, if you don’t meet and adopt millennials’ expectations, then you will quickly become less relevant to this influential population.

How? By accommodating their hectic lifestyles. Here are seven ways my clinic has adapted:

  • Adding clinics with “extended hours,” allowing commuters to get the care they need without taking time off of work
  • Allowing new and current patients to make same-day appointments
  • Offering 24/7 online appointment booking via a website or even phoning
  • Providing urgent care and after hours clinics, available 365 days a year
  • Launching 24/7 telemedicine services for urgent care needs
  • Piloting post-surgery follow-up via video visits for routine procedures
  • Enhancing a robust online portal for patients to communicate quickly with providers

Give them what they need

Millennials know what they want. Our real challenge: give them what they want and, in the process, give them what they need – continuity of care, to better protect their health and well-being.

We know what they need: medical homes that provide coordinated care by skilled and knowledgeable clinicians who can easily access complete medical records, eliminate duplication and waste, and save money for everyone involved.

We need to attract them by meeting their needs as they navigate their everyday lives.

Sandra Worrell is a family medicine physician at Austin Regional Clinic, Kyle, TX.

 Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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