When’s the last time you went to see your primary care physician (PCP)? If you are like over a fourth of the population in the U.S., the right question may be whether or not you have one? According to a national poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 26% of U.S. citizens don’t have a primary care physician. The emergence of COVID-19 is likely to cause this trend to continue upward.
The trend of not having a PCP is especially prominent among the younger age groups. 45% of 18-29 year old’s don’t have a PCP. The number drops to 28% for those between 30-49, 18% for those between 50-64, and 12% for those 65 or older.
Being a millennial and not having a PCP, I too am part of this statistic. Being away from home and being busy with school and work doesn’t give me much time to find a PCP! That’s the reason why I don’t have a primary care physician. When talking to friends my age and older, they express that they feel the same way. It’s easier for me to look up the closest Kroger “Minute Clinic” or to call into Teladoc to make an appointment. I mean, can it get much better than not having to leave the comfort of my home and still being able to see a doctor? For many, including myself, taking the time to research and look for a PCP isn’t worth the hassle, so we choose to go with the more convenient and quicker option.
Why is this happening? Well, one answer is convenience. Telemedicine has been on to rise since 2015, but many carriers now accept online visits as in-person visits due to COVID-19. The CDC reported a 154% increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020 compared to this same period in 2019. On-demand healthcare gives individuals access to 24/7 service from virtually anywhere in the U.S. We have all been there before. It’s 2 A.M, and you wake up with a throbbing earache, headache, and chills. Our bodies don’t know the difference between business and non-business hours. If you planned to visit your PCP to get treated, you would have to wait until the morning to call and schedule an appointment. With telemedicine, this is no longer the case. Many telemedicine practices offer 24/7 service, so you no longer have to suffer through the night with your ailments. This type of accessibility and availability has led the younger generation to prefer telemedicine visits over primary care physician visits.
Cost is another reason why individuals have disengaged with their PCP. Insurance companies are now covering a portion of the cost of telemedicine visits. For some individuals, the increase in coverage has resulted in telemedicine becoming cheaper than in-person visits with your PCP. Since the Great Recession of 2008, many have been looking for ways to save money on health care. Telemedicine has provided adequate care at a lower cost for individuals versus PCP visits. As a result, the number of individuals looking for and visiting their PCP has declined tremendously since 2008. The trend of looking for ways to save a couple of pennies on health care will only continue to grow. In our country, due to COVID-19, we saw our unemployment rate skyrocket to 14.8%. Many families are struggling financially during these challenging times, and telehealth could be one way to relieve some of the financial stress. The emergence of telehealth could help supply these families with cheaper health care — while at the same time not sacrificing the quality of care.
There are both positives and negatives revealed if individuals choose telemedicine over a PCP. While using telemedicine and a PCP is an intelligent strategy, using telemedicine alone could be risky. Establishing a relationship with your PCP is crucial because they will know your medical history and treatments that have worked for you in the past. This knowledge can lead to better care and treatment for everyday sicknesses and chronic conditions, if they arise. Those with an established relationship with their PCP have reported being happier with their treatment than those without a relationship with their PCP. When you have a PCP, they make an effort to remind you about preventive tests and screenings. If you only access a doctor via telemedicine, that doctor is less likely to know your medical history. It may be more difficult for them to make suggestions about proper preventive measures you need to take. The obvious pluses of telemedicine: convenience and saving money. It’s up to you to consider these costs and benefits to determine what service is best for you!
Published By: Jeffrey Duvic