Who is your primary healthcare provider?

Depending on your birthdate, your answer could vary widely from your friends and colleagues—especially if your workplace includes people of different generations. 

Regardless, many people today don’t recognize their need for primary care. Or, more likely, what genuine primary care even is.

In spite of the best intentions of many in the healthcare industry, managed care ultimately turned primary care providers into gatekeepers. Instead of providing vital services, they were left acting as one more step in between patients and the care they need, wasting both time and money.

But here’s the reality: primary care is the only discipline trained in holistic health. While specialists focus on one organ or system, primary care is looking not just at the whole body, but the whole person — how everything works together. And, when presented with symptoms, primary care looks for the underlying problem.

This is what primary care is trained to do. How do we reach a multigenerational workforce with the primary care they need? It starts by understanding their perspectives.

Baby Boomers (born in 1946 to 1964)


Baby Boomers have more expendable income than any other generation, and while they don’t adopt much of the technology of their kids and grandkids, they’re familiar with navigating the internet. In fact, for many, it’s their first stop for research — especially about health concerns.

And while most of them are empty-nesters, time is a commodity they’re not willing to sacrifice. Living in the later stages of life, they need primary care overseeing their entire health journey. While keeping track of the risk factors they face that comes with aging, like:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression

And here’s the gap for Baby Boomers: most won’t get the full scope primary care they need through the specialty care they depend on.

Of those who’ve been referred out to, say, a cardiologist for early symptoms of heart disease, many won’t return to primary care. Rather, they’ll receive primary care services from a cardiologist who isn’t trained in holistic care — until they’re referred to another specialty when "unrelated" symptoms arise. There are delays, and gaps in care.

But with true primary care, especially when services like X-rays, lab draws, and  routine exams are all in one location, Boomers have a provider who is on top of their care and is able to see the bigger picture.

Generation X (born in 1965 to 1980)


This generation isn’t quite convinced there's such a thing as primary care. That’s primarily due to how they approach healthcare in general: searching for the best deal, at the best price. It isn’t unlike how they would shop for any other goods and services.

Their research is extensive, even more so than the Boomers who influenced them. But here’s the problem: for patients to experience the greatest impact of primary care, they require time and consistency.

Part of primary care’s role is building rapport and establishing a relationship between patients and providers. In many ways, this is what makes it possible for them to treat patients so effectively. It’s not just how a patient feels — it’s also about their life context. What’s happening at home? What’s going on at work?

You can’t get to this level of care in a single visit. Even less so if every visit ends up being with a different provider.

That’s the risk for Generation X: never really getting the big-picture care they need (similar to Boomers) because they’re looking for the better deal and not a long-term relationship.

As this generation ages, they’re beginning to investigate preventive procedures for the health risks that effected their parents. Procedures like colonoscopies and mammograms that both require context and fall under the banner of  primary care.

These offerings, and other services like immunizations, treatment for minor injuries and illnesses, and wellness screenings could capture the attention of Generation X and get them to see the value in true primary care.

Millennials (born in 1981 to 1996)


Millennials expect ease, accessibility and even immediacy. And that’s led many millennials to replace true primary care with other healthcare services like retail care or urgent care.

From their perspective, why do they need to wait to see a primary care provider when they can get into an urgent care clinic on the same day? But this isn’t highest quality of care, and it’s not the most effective either.

And while many are still young and healthy, that doesn’t negate the fact that they need someone who knows them and is walking with them on their health journey — especially since the roots of many later-life illnesses start at this time.

For Millennials, that’s the risk. They’re the largest living generation and are poised to be the largest group to utilize the healthcare features of their benefit package.

And even though they value the personal relationships that are made possible through primary care, they crave features like same-day appointments, medical portals, and no wait times. These features simply aren’t optional for Millennials.

At the same time, because of their youth, many won’t immediately seek care like older generations, especially those saddled with student loan debt. But providing incentives and educating about the value of preventive healthcare will go a long way to help establish an appreciation of primary care they can carry with them as they age.

While every generation is different, the need for primary care is a constant regardless of age. As is the demand for cost-effective, quality care that’s convenient. These are all the value of primary care. As is the holistic approach that’s just not possible anywhere else — whether you’re talking about urgent care or specialists.

If you’re interested in learning more about a different approach to healthcare, one that’s more personalized and impactful, be sure to download and read our white paper, Stop Treating Patients Like Cogs In A Machine: A New Vision For The Clinical Experience.

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