by Daniel Schultz, PharmD Candidate UF College of Pharmacy
In spite of perceptions that they consider themselves young and invincible, a recent poll by the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that the majority of Americans aged 18 to 26 are taking an active role in maintaining their health by seeing a family physician at least once a year for check-ups and preventive services….
The poll found that 66 percent of young adults have a usual source of care and 62 percent of those respondents identified their source of routine care as a family physician. The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the AAFP, obtained responses from 1,273 Americans between the ages of 18 and 26.
Seventy-six percent of young adults who have a place of regular care said they went to a doctor’s office for their routine health care rather than retail health clinics or the emergency room.
“Young adults want to establish an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician. By setting this foundation of care, they are building toward a healthy future,” said Roland Goertz, MD, MBA, president of the AAFP. “The health care reform law changed insurance coverage options for young adults. Now young people up to age 26 can enroll in their parents’ plan. That’s important, and we hope that more young people will take advantage of this. Over time, more young adults will have access to care as the provisions of the Affordable Care Act become effective. And family physicians will be ready to provide them with the care they want and need.”
The survey found that 90 percent of respondents who have a place of regular care had visited their health care provider at least once in the past year. The majority of those visits (59 percent) were for regular exams or preventive services, and 9 percent were for the management of a chronic condition.
“Our survey shows that young adults are getting preventive care,” Goertz said. “This kind of diligence can help them maintain their overall health, and preclude future problems. Conventional wisdom says this age group doesn’t have health concerns, but one in six young adults has a chronic condition such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma.”
When it comes to managing these conditions, young adults may need help navigating today’s ever-changing health care system. That’s where family physicians come in, according to Goertz.
“Family physicians provide comprehensive care that addresses young adults’ health concerns,” he said. “Those concerns can be about getting preventive services such as immunizations, family planning, education about sexually transmitted diseases, and good nutrition and weight control. Or they can be about diagnosis and treatment of minor illness or management of chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure or mental health conditions such as depression.”
Survey respondents indicated that conveniences such as making appointments online, corresponding via e-mail with their physician and having same-day appointments would increase the likelihood that they’d see a primary care physician more often.
“The good news for these young people is that those services are increasingly part of family physicians’ practices,” said Goertz. “Sixty-two percent of family physicians do provide same-day appointments and 30 percent correspond with patients via e-mail. The percentage of family physicians who provide online appointments has tripled since 2005.”
Such conveniences are part of the patient-centered medical home model of care, where patients have an ongoing relationship with a personal physician who uses the latest technologies to provide treatment and help patients navigate the complex and often confusing health care system.
The medical home model uses a team-based approach that provides:
- preventive care, sick care and help managing chronic conditions;
- expanded hours and same-day appointments;
- virtual office visits and online communications via a e-mail secure system; and
- care coordination for all services a patient might use — doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, and other segments in the health care system.
Patient-centered medical homes also incorporate technology that allows physicians to send electronic prescriptions to the patient’s pharmacist. Another technology — electronic health records — serves as a “library” where the patient’s history and health care interactions are stored and enable doctors to communicate with one another and stay updated on mutual patients’ medical conditions.
The survey was conducted online in the United States by Harris Interactive® on behalf of the American Academy of Family Physicians between March 31 and April 11, 2011, among 1,273 young adults 18 to 26 years of age.