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Millennials, don’t overlook your need for primary care

It’s easy to glorify busy. With time being our most limited and precious resource, establishing a relationship with a primary care physician might not be at the top of your list. Whether you are a working parent, a senior with limited access to transportation or an otherwise “healthy” millennial, I’ve heard many reasons why people dismiss or procrastinate building a partnership for health.

This can especially be the case with the millennial generation, those born roughly between the years 1982-1996. In fact, 93 percent of millennials don’t schedule preventive care appointments with a doctor.

For a generation consumed with the idea of “wellness,” healthcare, in the traditional sense, does not seem to be identified as a priority.

That means only 7 percent of millennials are going to the doctor regularly. For a generation consumed with the idea of “wellness,” healthcare, in the traditional sense, does not seem to be identified as a priority. I think there are a few reasons behind this. If you’re a millennial, these lines of thought might sound familiar…

  • I’d rather just Google my symptoms and diagnose myself.
  • There’s no need to go to the doctor if I’m healthy, right?
  • It’s too hard to fit a doctor’s appointment into my work schedule.
  • I don’t need to go to the doctor unless I’m sick — there’s always urgent care or online telemedicine services.

But I hope I can convince you otherwise — that it really is to your benefit to have a primary care physician who knows and cares about you and your health. Here’s why.

You have a doctor who knows you.

Many of my millennial-aged patients come see me when they first start school at Texas A&M University, which is located near where I practice. I think it is typically at the urging of their parents (“you need to find a doctor down there just in case”), and I really love it. There are times when you absolutely need urgent care but otherwise, your primary care physician should be the one you see for most of your medical needs.

Why? Because your primary care physician knows you.

You don’t have to re-explain your life story every time you go in. This saves both you and your doctor time and makes you more likely to get to the correct diagnosis. You can walk in and get straight to the point without having to discuss your medical history and list your pre-existing conditions or chronic diseases.

Your doctor wants to educate and empower you, not just get you in and out with a prescription in hand

For example, your doctor knows that you have a history of asthma and that every year when the cedar pollen blows through, you end up with an asthma exacerbation that needs to be recognized and treated promptly. Or that every fall, you get a internet-diagnosed “sinus infection” that is actually allergies, and he or she reminds you to take your allergy medicine, thus helping you avoid unwanted and unneeded antibiotics. Nearly half of patients who go to an urgent care clinic for a cold, flu or similar respiratory complaints leave with an unnecessary antibiotic, compared to 17 percent of those seen at a doctor’s office. This can put you at risk of sometimes severe side effects and contributes to the growing problem of bacteria resistance due to antibiotic overuse around the world.

“Explore."

Your doctor wants to educate and empower you, not just get you in and out with a prescription in hand — that’s why we take the time to find the right treatment and make sure you understand your plan of care.

Related: 7 symptoms signaling you need to go to the doctor

You know where to go for your care (and how to contact them).

Having a primary care physician provides a consistent point of contact for all your care needs. While urgent care is the place to go during “off-hours” and for minor emergencies, your primary care physician’s office is your true medical home. Having an ongoing relationship with your doctor means you have a designated care partner and established communication methods.

Urgent care centers typically have multiple doctors who work different shifts, which can add complexity in follow-up care and communications with the original doctor who you saw you for your appointment. But with a primary care doctor, it’s much easier to communicate about prescriptions, test results, follow-up care and referrals to trusted specialists. Having an established relationship with a doctor also makes it easier to work you into the schedule during those times you really need to come into the office.

And when you need to send your doctor a message for those little questions that come up (like “Is it okay to take Tylenol at the same time as this antibiotic?”) it’s easy. As cliché as it sounds, there’s an app for that! The MyBSWHealth app provides a secure way for a patient to contact me without coming into the office.

You can trust that your doctor has your back.

I get it — staying on top of your health needs (in addition to all the other responsibilities you’re juggling) on your own is hard. But your primary care physician is here to help. He or she keeps track of your health maintenance throughout all phases of life, including things like pap smears, colonoscopies or vaccines that you may need based on your age and individual risk factors.

I keep reminders and flags for myself so that if someone has, for example, an abnormal pap smear (showing a risk of cervical cancer), I can be sure that they follow up and get a referral from me to a gynecologist to get a biopsy. Then, I keep tabs on their biopsy results and make sure things don’t fall through the cracks.

At the end of the day, that’s all we want — to help you live a healthy life.

Routine visits to your doctor may vary depending on your individual needs, from every three months to annual physicals. But you and your physician can talk about this and find the best routine to keep track of your health concerns.

Routine visits to your doctor may vary depending on your individual needs, from every three months to annual physicals. But you and your physician can talk about this and find the best routine to keep track of your health concerns.

Related: 5 things you might not know a primary care physician can do

There you have it, millennials (and anyone else curious about primary care). I hope I have persuaded you to find a physician to partner with you in wellness. At the end of the day, that’s all we want — to help you live a healthy life. It’s why we became doctors in the first place, and what keeps us coming back every day. Emergency rooms and urgent care centers are wonderful resources when you have pressing health concerns or emergencies after hours. But remember, it really is worth it to have a primary care physician who knows you and your health.

Are you ready to meet your primary care physician?

About the author

Kathryn Greiner, MD
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Kathryn Greiner, MD, is a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – College Station University Drive. She attended medical school and completed her residency at Texas A&M Science Center College of Medicine. Dr. Greiner enjoys teaching her patients how to partner with her for a healthier life. She is married with three children. Book an appointment with Dr. Greiner today.

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Millennials, don’t overlook your need for primary care