FSA Friday - 10/12/18 - Why aren't millennials going to the doctor?

Millennials get a bad rap. If you listen to rumblings from negative people, you'd think the nation's largest age group is responsible for ruining beer, lowering work ethic and making way too big a deal about avocado smeared on toast.

But I don't think anyone expected millennials to be blamed for killing the traditional, long-term doctor/patient relationship. Yet that's exactly what's happening, at least according to this week's headline.

Obviously, most statements about this much-maligned generation are nonsense. But there seems to be some evidence that their reliance on primary care doctors seems to be waning, in favor of telehealth and even urgent care centers. Is this just a passing trend? Or does this indicate a serious shift in the way future generations plan to receive necessary health treatment?

Spurred By Convenience, Millennials Often Spurn The 'Family Doctor' Model - Sandra G. Boodman, Kaiser Health News
Though we're highlighting this particular article from Kaiser Health News, this same news was covered by publications ranging from Fortune and ABC News to local syndicates across the country.

In this piece, author Sandra Boodman goes into deep, anecdotal detail about why the entire concept of "going to the doctor" seems to be fading fast. Citing a study from Kaiser Family Health (independent of Kaiser Health News) 45% of surveyed millennials did not have a primary care doctor.

Where some people feel the personal connection between doctor and patient is key to proper healthcare, millennials seem to want more of a "quick service" mentality -- get in, get out, get better.

Some speculative reasons for this include the rising gig economy, millennials' tendency for more transient, "nomadic" lifestyles, and a much higher need for convenience. And traditional waiting rooms simply don't offer these things. In other words, why wait for Dr. X when Dr. Y at the walk-in clinic will give you the same treatment … often for a lower price?

The article goes on to explain how this shift in primary care might serve millennials in the short term, but that moving away from traditional doctor visits might drive up long-term costs across the board.

More importantly, without patient histories and familiarity, there is a real risk of losing quality healthcare, meaning unnecessary, inappropriate (or potentially dangerous) treatments might be given by accident. Simple problems might be made worse by not having a longer-term understanding of a patient's tendencies and needs.

Will virtual diagnoses and inconsistent walk-in treatments lead to a regression of quality care? There's certainly some evidence to support it. But there's also a lot of people aged 18-31 who are okay with these risks, as long as their need for convenience is satisfied.

The past few days have seen a flood of articles about this trend. But our guess is that it won't be the last time we hear about this trend, from either side of the discussion.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

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