When it comes to staying healthy, those of us dubbed millennials are doing things a bit differently. Unlike our parents and grandparents, who visit their primary care doctors regularly, millennials don’t usually include regular doctor visits on personal health checklists.
Millennials (ages 18-34) make up more than 28 percent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) customers. Yet we’re less likely to visit a doctor than our older counterparts like the Gen Xers (ages 35-50) and the Baby Boomers (ages 50-69).
Here are three reasons we might put off seeing a regular physician:
1. Millennials think it’s a waste of time and money.
Millennials tend to avoid doctor visits because we think visiting a doctor is a big inconvenience. A patient can find it hard to schedule an appointment at a convenient time. And in an age when a diner can book a table at a favorite restaurant straight from a mobile device, millennials are wondering why it’s not as easy to do the same for our doctor appointments. All said, in an on-demand world, Millennials want faster, more convenient care.
We also believe that regular visits are expenses we just can’t afford. In fact, half of millennials say we avoid seeing doctors to save money. More than half use retail clinics, urgent care centers or emergency rooms for non-emergency care instead of their primary care doctors. Some of us even just Google our symptoms or turn to WebMD so we can treat ourselves at home.
But while millennials could save money in the near term by avoiding regular doctor visits, we could end up paying more down the road if health problems go untreated.
2. We’re already healthy.
No surprise here, but millennials are typically healthier when compared to older age groups. With the advantage of youth come fewer chronic conditions that tend to develop with age. But millennials also have a broader definition of what it means to “be healthy.” It goes beyond “not being sick.” Because millennials are focused on eating right, exercising regularly and taking care of our mental health, we might not think we need a doctor to keep us healthy. This is likely magnified by the wealth of fitness, meditation, nutrition and wellness apps at our fingertips, making it easier than ever to track our fitness and overall health.
Just like the generations that came before us, aging millennials face an increased risk for unfavorable health conditions. These conditions are 13 to 52 percent more likely to present themselves in adulthood for those who do not receive proper preventive care early in life. Preventive care received through regular doctor visits can help catch serious health issues early or keep them at bay altogether.
3. We are willing to go straight to the specialist.
When choosing to visit a doctor, a millennial is more likely to see a specialist directly instead of starting with a primary care doctor. Technology has made it easier to get a specialist referral through email or telemedicine What’s more, millennials have more flexibility in choosing our primary doctors or seeing specialists directly because fewer health plans require direct referrals or pre-approvals for specialist visits.
What does all this mean?
Millennials, like most people, can benefit from regular visits to a primary care doctor. With regular doctor visits, we can grow more of a relationship with our doctors than in a setting like urgent care, where you only see the doctor once. These relationships allow for the early detection of serious health conditions before symptoms appear and for long-term follow-up care, customized to each individual, that an urgent care or retail clinic cannot provide.
To encourage more millennials to take an active role in our health, BCBSNC is meeting us where we are: in today’s digital world. The Blue Connect patient portal gives customers direct access to their insurance plans and benefit information. Additionally, cost conscious Millennials can research cost and quality information before scheduling a treatment/procedure and selecting a doctor. The portal can also help us find a doctor nearby who is in network for our insurance plans.
And since millennials love a helpful app, here’s one to make it even easier for you: Blue Connect Mobile. This has everything you can find through Blue Connect, now in the palm of your hands. Get information relevant to your health care needs wherever you are.
So if you’re a millennial like me, it’s time to consider finding a primary care doctor to start a relationship and make your life healthier in the long run. Starting those talks now helps lay the foundation for a relationship. And this relationship will make it easier for you to maintain and improve your health as you get older. A primary care physician knows your history, your medical conditions and, most importantly, you. As we focus on making sure we’re making the best health care decisions, they can play a valuable role in providing an expert medical opinion and guidance. Plus, preventive care from a primary care doctor might even be covered by your insurance. (Most preventive care is covered at 100 percent.) Call the number on the back of your member ID card to find out.
Blue Cross internal data on Millennial customers and primary care physicians was provided by Matthew Lester. Lester is an Informatics Scientist on the Enterprise Analytics, Access Team at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.