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October 27, 2021

For younger generations, urgent care and telemedicine often trump primary care

Generation Z and millennials are utilize health care much differently than older adults, favoring efficiency and accessibility

Adult Health Primary Care
Gen Z millennials health Bruce Mars/Unsplash

Younger generations are not loyal to a primary care provider. They are more likely to shop around online and rely on recommendations and reviews to make health care decisions.

Generation Z and millennials are known for setting many of today's trends – and that's no different within the health care industry.

The way these generations experience health care is vastly different than the way older generations experience it, as highlighted by a survey of nearly 2,500 people ages 18-74.

Forty percent of Generation Z respondents said they visit their primary care doctors either "once a year" or "never or rarely." One-third of millennials indicated the same thing. 

"Future of Health Experience" report, compiled by the communications company R/GA, examined access to health care, data and information gaps, and generational shifts in emerging the digital health era. 

The survey found that only 42% of respondents believed their current medical data was easily accessible. Only 30% believed their historical records were easily accessible. This indicates that there are clear gaps in accessibility and information that need to be addressed as younger generations grow older. 

Generation Z, which includes anyone born between 1997 and 2012, is the United States' largest generation, at 86.4 million people. They are the most diverse by race, ethnicity and gender. Millennials, which include people born between 1981 and 1996, are the second-largest generation, at 82.2 million. 

Previous studies have shown that millennials prefer going to an urgent care center when they are sick. Telemedicine is also more popular among younger generations.

"It's little secret that younger generations—Millennials and Gen Z—aren't seeking or receiving health care the same way as their predecessors," said Jacqueline Lovelock, managing director of R/GA Health. "The next wave of health care consumers' unique demands for convenient, accessible and transparent care services are also leading them away from traditional health care providers. They're more likely to seek out a specific service they want (often online) and then go with the provider that most quickly addresses that need.

For younger generations, convenience, efficiency and affordability are most important in their health care experiences, studies have shown. Young adults often choose an appointment at an urgent care center, which are generally open seven days a week, over a visit to a primary care doctor.

Merritt Hawkins survey of 15 large metropolitan areas found that it can take an average of 24 days for a first visit to a primary care provider. In Philadelphia, the average was a littler shorter, at 17 days.

A 2019 Accenture survey found that 37% of millennials and Gen Zers are dissatisfied with the locations or channels of their health care. And 44% reported being dissatisfied with the effectiveness of treatment.

Younger generations are not loyal to a primary care provider. They are more likely to shop around online and rely on recommendations and reviews to make health care decisions. They also prefer to do most things online, including getting prescriptions, interacting with online doctors and accessing their medical data.

Yet, the lack of continuity of care that younger generations are experiencing has many medical experts concerned. While Gen Zers and millennials are young and mostly healthy right now, when health issues crop up, there won't be a health care provider who knows their entire medical histories.

The R/GA survey found that 35% of insured respondents cited a lack of money as one of the biggest obstacles to accessing proper health care. Millennials were the most likely to cite a lack of financial resources as their biggest barrier. About 41% cited a lack of money or insurance, but just 24% of baby boomers did. 

Additionally, nearly half of Generation Z respondents have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, with women particularly affected. By contrast, that was true of just 19% of boomers.

A separate study found that 29.4% of people ages 18-25 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, compared to 14.1% of those 50 years or older.

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