Because young adults tend to forgo primary care providers in favor of the efficiency and convenience of retail clinics and urgent care, you may’ve heard that PCPs will fade away in decades to come. But it turns out the story could be more complicated. According to new research, primary care providers continue to be patients’ preferred source of healthcare because they deliver on what patients value most.
The survey, sponsored by consulting firm WD Partners, included 2,600 people between 18 and 80 years old. It found that 85 percent of respondents consider visiting their PCP when in need and 80 percent actually do. In addition, 77 percent prefer family doctors to other healthcare providers and visit them more often.
Researchers also asked patients to rate on a scale of 1 to 30 (30 being most important) the importance of certain qualities when deciding where they’ll seek healthcare. These came out on top:
- Quality of care, 23.4
- Insurance coverage, 19.7
- Healthcare staff, 14.6
- Reputation, 9.2
- Price, 8.6
- Service availability, 7.7
- Menu of services, 6.1
- Convenience, 6.1
- Speed of delivery, 4.5
The top three characteristics certainly evoke a family doctor setting more than urgent care or a retail clinic. But the research still indicates that PCPs won’t stay on top forever. Only 53 percent of respondents said their family was “their first thought” for healthcare, and some 42 percent of respondents said it was urgent care.
Also notable are clear healthcare preferences according to age. Millennials and Gen-Zers are more likley to not have a PCP than Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. For example, 72 percent of Gen-Z respondents said they’d visited a retail clinic three or more times in the past year, followed by 52 percent of Millennials, 27 of Gen Xers, 23 percent of Boomers and 0 percent of Silent Gen respondents.
What draws patients to alternatives like urgent care and retail clinics? They’re seen as “convenient,” “easy,” and “quick,” the survey found. Top reasons for visiting a PCP? Accepting a patient’s insurance, good quality care and a familiar staff.
How can PCPs attract and keep younger patients?
Almost all of the younger generations’ concerns with PCPs revolved around inconvenience and inefficiency. So to start:
- Decrease wait times in the office.
- Increase availability of walk-in appointments.
- Optimize the appointment-booking process so turn-around time is faster.
In addition, patients still see PCPs as superior to retail clinics and urgent care centers in the areas of quality of care and for longer-term health concerns, such as wellness. Here are some ways to amplify into these advantages, according to WD Partners.
- Communicate high quality through technology. Use devices that monitor vitals and other conditions in real-time. Then providers can provide feedback and information as things change in real-time.
- Turn your office into a comfortable, spa-like environment. Offer beverages, and in the short time patients do have to wait, check on them often.
- Offer a concierge or subscription service that gives patients a connection to a team of practitioners who can help them advance their physical and mental wellbeing all the time.
Ultimately, the research shows that patients appreciate the familiarity and quality that PCPs provide — but not at the expense of convenience and efficiency. So if PCPs are able to combine the best of both worlds, they’ll stay on top.
Healthcare: Who Survives?, WD Partners.
Last updated on 10/8/19.