By this point, it isn’t news that preferences among patients are changing—away from traditional primary care, toward walk-in care with providers they might not necessarily ever see again. It’s plain that the doctor–patient relationship ain’t what it used to be. The change could be just as good for savvy urgent care operators at is bad for old-fashioned family practices, however. This is borne out by research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this month. The headline is that visits to PCPs dropped 24% between 2008 and 2016, with the fall being especially steep among young adults (-28%); those who do not have chronic conditions (-26%); and those living in low-income areas (-31%). They’re not getting by with less care, necessarily; visits to “alternative venues”—including urgent care centers—jumped 47% over the same period. The data were drawn from 142 million primary visits among 94 million member-years for commercially insured individuals.
Primary Care Visits Are Tumbling: Is This a Problem or an Opportunity for You?