Nearly 1 in 4 millennials hasn't had a physical in 5 years, survey says

A new survey from Harmony Healthcare IT shows 23-to-38-year-olds eschewing traditional care and flocking to WebMD.
By Jonah Comstock
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Photo by Getty Images.

A new survey from Harmony Healthcare IT shows that millennials in large numbers are going online rather than to the doctor when they need medical advice.

While only 48% of those surveyed (2,013 Americans aged 23 to 38 years) said they trust online resources to accurately diagnose symptoms, 73% admitted to going online for medical advice rather than seeing a doctor.

WebMD was the overwhelming first choice to go to online, with 82% naming the website; the next closest response, news articles, was named by 27% of respondents.

Other insights from the survey: 45% of millennials are putting off addressing a health issue, and of those 41% have been doing so for more than a year.

The survey found that 76% of millennials have a primary care physician, which is a bit higher than the 67% number Accenture came up with earlier this year for the same question. A third of respondents hadn’t had a physical within the last year, and 24% hadn’t had one in five or more years.

When millennials do have a PCP, they’re most likely to find them through their insurance portal (30%), followed by a family referral (29%). But online reviews (21%) aren’t that far behind and still rank above referrals from friends (11%) and coworkers (3%).

WHY IT MATTERS

Millenials are a large and growing percentage of healthcare users, expected to outnumber baby boomers by 22 million in 2030. The more they turn to retail clinics and telehealth for healthcare treatment, the more they potentially reshape the healthcare landscape.

The study drives home the importance of an online presence if traditional providers want to coax these patients to a healthcare practice. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they wouldn’t see a doctor who wasn’t online, and 48% said they preferred a virtual visit with a physician to an in-person one.

Of course, it’s important to couch this discussion in economic terms as well. While 42% of respondents cited “feeling healthy” as their reason for skipping the physical, 22% said they didn’t have insurance. WebMD isn’t just convenient, it’s free, and it’s hard to say how many respondents were choosing it for that reason. In the survey, only 35% said they set aside savings for medical emergencies, and 51% of those who did saved less than $100 per month.

THE LARGER TREND

The February study from Accenture looked at nearly four times as many consumers from all around the world and found similar conclusions — a move away from traditional care, toward online offerings, not only for millennials but also for Generations X and Z.