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The Latest Thing Millennials Are Killing? The Primary Care Doctor

October 9, 2018, 8:47 PM UTC

Millennials are killing everything from car ownership to home ownership to beer to vacations to the institution of marriage itself, if the headlines are to be believed. (Full disclosure: I am a millennial.) So why not add another victim to the list? In this case, the primary care doctor.

A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey and followup analysis by Kaiser Health News found that 26% of 1,200 respondents said they didn’t have a go-to primary care physician. But, digging a bit deeper, the survey found sharp generational shifts fueling that trend: Nearly half (45%) of 18-to-29 year olds said they didn’t have a primary care doctor. That figure fell to 28% for Americans aged 30 to 49 and just 18% and 12%, respectively, for people in the 50-to-64 and 65-plus cohort.

Some of this can likely be explained by a divergence of needs. It’s not implausible to think that, the older you get, the more you may want to have the security of a personal medical professional versed in your health history.

But it also represents a sea change in thinking likely fostered by an increased emphasis on convenience (and, perhaps, increasingly transitory lifestyles), according to some experts. A same-day telehealth appointment in a stranger could prove more valuable to some than a long-standing relationship with a doctor who may not be available at the click of a button.

The broader question is: What long-term effects will this shift have on public health? People with chronic conditions, for instance, may benefit from the stability of a primary care doctor who can provide continuous (and, theoretically, more personalized) care. At the same time, Americans who live in the numerous areas with a shortage of doctors may have entirely understandable reasons for pursuing more transitory medical relationships.

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