Source: The News-Enterprise
In health care, younger patients are trending away from primary care providers and, instead, using urgent care clinics.
However, by choosing that option, a local health official said they are missing the personal relationship and preventive care provided by a primary care provider.
A national poll of 1,200 randomly selected adults conducted in July by the Kaiser Family Foundation for a recent article by Kaiser Health News on The Washington Post website found 26 percent said they did not have a primary care provider.
According to the article, “there was a pronounced difference among age groups: 45 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had no primary care provider, compared with 28 percent of those 30 to 49, 18 percent of those 50 to 64 and 12 percent age 65 and older.”
The same article stated a 2017 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington think tank, and Greenwald and Associates yielded similar results with 33 percent of millennials not having a regular doctor, compared with 15 percent of those age 50 to 64.
Dr. Thomas Hustead, medical director of Hardin Memorial Health Medical Group, said although urgent care clinics may be fine as an option for some illnesses, few are equipped to provide holistic care. He said primary care doctors track the patient’s health and, in getting to know the patient and their family, know the psycho-social components that factor into their well-being.
“The whole goal, in particular if you are family medicine, is to develop relationships,” he said. Through developing those relationships, he’ll know whatever social things play into what is going on in the patient’s life.
“That’s why we like to do what we do because then you feel like you can take care of them more than just the acute disease, but the whole process,” he said. “I’d say about 50 percent of all visits … have some kind psych-social component to it as well, more so than just the physical ailment that they have. If you’ve known the patient for many years you can address those and take care of those things.”
Hustead has been in family medicine for about 22 years. As things have changed, he has noticed older patients are more apt to value that relationship.
“The younger generation, it is usually convenience over relationship,” he said. However, Hustead noted he does see younger patients that have a relationship with the primary care doctor.
Hustead said there are patients out there that don’t have any primary care provider and often are using urgent care as their main care. By doing that, he said they are missing out on preventive care and could be adding additional costs for things they don’t need.
Hustead said he understands the convenience and need to use urgent care facilities, but he also wants “to see the patient get that really good care that they could get if they have a relationship with the doctor that is taking care of them.”
Hustead also said moving away from a one-on-one relationship may be driving up costs and worsening the problem of fragmented or unnecessary care, including the misuse of antibiotics.
“Effects our system as a hole,” he said.
According to the Kaiser Health News article, “a recent report in JAMA Internal Medicine found nearly half of patients who sought treatment at an urgent care clinic for a cold, the flu or a similar respiratory ailment left with an unnecessary and potentially harmful prescription for antibiotics, compared with 17 percent of those seen in a doctor’s office. Antibiotics are useless against viruses and may expose patients to severe side effects with just a single dose.”
Hustead said the relationship formed between the primary care provider and patient also allows the doctor to better work with the patient on which prescriptions they can afford. He said they’ll work together to figure it out.
Hustead said primary care providers are continuing to search and implement ways to respond to a patient’s need in a more efficient time frame, “thinking outside the box in how we can take care of patients.”
Whether that is through expanded hours or a call system if someone has a question, which they currently have or patients.
“We always have one of our providers on call at night to be able to answer questions for patients. Those are things we certainly can continue to look at to improve,” he said.
Hustead said the number of primary care providers also is growing to help further improve wait time for an appointment.
Some HMH Medical Group providers currently accepting patients are Cool Springs Family Medicine, Elizabethtown Family Medicine, Freeman Creek Family Medicine, Radcliff Family Medicine, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, Hodgenville Family Medicine, Meade County Family Medicine and Bardstown Family Medical Center.