Delgado doesn’t accept insurance because, frankly, he thinks it’s a raw deal. Instead, he’s upfront about his pricing and offers payment plans. He says his millennial patients seem to appreciate that transparency.
“I’ve found a lot of millennials don’t have insurance but maybe they’re afraid to say it,” he says. “They’re more willing to utilize a different payment system, more so than older people.” Delgados’ patients use health savings accounts, and he’s looking to add Venmo as a payment option because so many patients ask if he accepts it.
Changing minds while healing hearts
Pietruszewski likes the primary care doctor she’s been seeing since she was born, but she’s not going to bother him for something like the common cold. She says his time is too important to be spent telling her to rest and drink plenty of fluids. She’ll see a healthcare provider if her cold lingers, but if she does she might head to the urgent care for a quick visit.
Just as millennials have forced primary care doctors to cater to their expectations, doctors are now looking to convince millennials of the need for a family doctor, someone who will take responsibility for the big picture of their health. And even those colds, too.
Primary care physicians still serve as an entry point into the healthcare system and a primary point of contact for patients. After all, specialists, urgent cares, and hospitals always ask for a primary care physician. They typically refer patients back to their primary care physician for follow-up, too.
“We have to reduce fragmentation of care if we’re ever going to have that kind of patient-centered care,” Blair says. “If you have a football team, you better have a good quarterback, someone to coordinate the play.”
The concept of a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) is one that physicians, including Blair, are promoting within their practices. The goal is to reign in patients who hop from specialist to urgent care to a second specialist while self-diagnosing and treating a potentially more serious problem. This could also be a way that physicians can convince millennials to return to primary care.
Madden says that while the concept is relatively new—the term was coined in the ’70s and ’80s but the National Committee for Quality Assurance began its push for it in 2008—the model is one that older generations already follow, as they grew up with different attitudes about physicians. And a different healthcare system.
The bonus of PCMH is that care delivered through this kind of network usually coincides with better use of patients’ insurance and can reduce out-of-pocket costs. If millennials find themselves a good PCMH, they’ll have much better health outcomes and a much different relationship with their doctor, Madden says.
Madden says that part of the problem is millennials are typically at the peak of their health and don’t have many chronic conditions. Until they’ve reached a stage in life where they need more care, they won’t likely see the benefit of a PCMH until they’re utilizing it to their full potential.
The good news? Madden finds that patients in their 20s and 30s are very conscious of their health. They exercise more and eat better compared to older generations. They see things like stress reduction and meditation as a form of self-care.
And they’re encouraging others to adopt good habits by sharing what they’re doing on social media. There are plenty of posts about their fitness challenge and trending diets. There are endless hashtags highlighting self-care routines that include everything from a good face mask to a trip to the dentist.
Rather than wait until it’s too late to convince millennials of the need for a primary care physician, it’s important that healthcare providers lean into the technology younger patients are craving now to bring them into the fold, so they have the tools to seek care down the road.
“We know there is a lot of benefit inherent in having someone coordinate care,” Madden says. “That helps with efficiency of care, effectiveness, and outcome.”
Kristine Gill is a freelance writer based in Naples, Fla.