Young Adults Prefer Alternative Care Facilities Over Doctors

Young and healthy. Or so many new American adults hope. According to a new Vitals study, adults under 30-years-old are more than twice as likely not to have a primary care physician than their older counterparts.

The report, part of the Vitals Index, found that 34 percent of adults 18-29 do not have a primary care doctor. Compare that to 25 percent of adults aged 30-49 and only 16 percent of adults aged 50 or older.

The jarring statistic explains why so many young Americans are turning to alternative care facilities like retail health clinics and urgent care centers when they get sick or are injured. In a related Vitals Index report, younger adults were twice as likely to use these types of medical care facilities compared to adults over 50.

Whether as a source for primary care or for sheer convenience, millions use urgent care centers each month. In fact, 41 percent of people surveyed indicated they’ve used urgent care for medical services beyond illness or injuries, like X-rays or lab tests (20 percent), ongoing care for a chronic condition (12 percent) or even for a flu shot (5 percent).

“Urgent care centers are growing because they are convenient and provide easy access to medical care and services,” said Mitch Rothschild, CEO of Vitals. “We expect their popularity to grow as health reform increases the strain on an already tight doctor supply of primary care physicians and people turn to alternatives for timely, affordable care.”

Across all age groups, urgent care visits were a suitable substitute for a physician’s office or hospital. Visitors gave high marks, either excellent or good, for the quality of medical care, professionalism of staff and cleanliness of facilities. Only the cost for medical care was rated slightly more harsh, between fair and good.

Yet it’s a deal that keeps people coming back: A quarter of all respondents said they returned to the urgent care center for follow-up care.

“Whether it’s an urgent care center or a doctor office, people want to know that they can receive quality care based on a number of factors, like whether the staff was friendly, the equipment modern and the wait long,” said Rothschild. “For every health care situation, the primary concern is being in good hands.”

Vitals provides online profiles on doctors and facilities, including more than 6,500 urgent care facilities across the country. Urgent Care reviews include consumer ratings and eight different quality measures. Find an urgent care center near you.