What Millennials Want Out of Primary Care, and How to Deliver It


As the largest adult generation in the U.S., millennials will have an outsized impact on the future of health care. Here are some ways to make primary care more appealing to all patients, including the first group raised with the internet.

Fam Pract Manag. 2021 May-June;28(3):29-33.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

Family physician Natasha Bhuyan, MD, was out to brunch with a group of friends, all millennials, when two of them began discussing their pregnancies. Others in the group who had already had children piped up with advice about what to expect during delivery, and about the safety of anesthesia and vaccines, based on their own experiences and what they had read online. Bhuyan and another doctor in the group were quiet, until one of their friends brought the spirited conversation to a screeching halt.

“You guys do realize we have a family physician and a pediatrician here who probably best know the answers to your questions,” that person said.

For Bhuyan, the conversation reinforced concerns about whether her generation values medical advice from the internet, friends, and personal experiences more than the go-to source for previous generations: their personal physician.

Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) are now the largest adult generation in the U.S., and the viability of primary care practices going forward will depend more and more on attracting this generational juggernaut.1

But there is mounting evidence that millennials as a group do not value primary care physicians as much as previous generations. “The Health of Millennials,” a 2019 study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Association, found that only 68% of millennials had a primary care physician,2 as opposed to 91% of those belonging to generation X.3 A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in 2018 found similar results.4

Millennials are almost twice as likely as baby boomers to use retail and urgent care clinics,5 and are also more likely to self-refer to a specialist than previous generations.6

How do primary care physicians bring this age group into the fold? This article contains some research-based insights into what millennials want and some ideas about how family physicians can deliver it in ways that will make their clinics more appealing to patients of all ages.


  • Millennials are now the largest adult generation in the U.S., and polling shows they are less likely to have a primary care physician than other generations.

  • To bring in more millennial patients, practices should consider expanding telehealth options, offering more flexible scheduling, being as transparent as possible about pricing, and integrating mental and behavioral health into primary care.

  • Online marketing is key to attracting millennials. Having a social media presence allows doctors to show a bit of their personality and “bedside manner,” while displaying clinical expertise about health issues that are common among millennials.


Millennials tend to consider the traditional system of primary care — calling the doctor's office and making an appointment to be seen in-person days or even weeks later —


Andy Marso is senior associate editor of FPM.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


show all references

1. Fry R. Millennials overtake baby boomers as America’s largest generation. Pew Research Center. April 28, 2020. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/28/millennials-overtake-baby-boom-ers-as-americas-largest-generation/...

2. The health of millennials. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. April 24, 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.bcbs.com/sites/default/files/file-attachments/health-of-america-report/HOA-Millennial_Health_0.pdf

3. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association study finds millennials are less healthy than generation X were at the same age. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. April 24, 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.bcbs.com/press-releases/blue-cross-blue-shield-association-study-finds-millennials-are-less-healthy

4. One-fourth of adults and nearly half of adults under 30 don’t have a primary care doctor. Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. Feb. 8, 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.kff.org/other/slide/one-fourth-of-adults-and-nearly-half-of-adults-under-30-dont-have-a-primary-care-doctor/

5. Five ways tech-savvy millennials alter health care landscape. News release. PNC Healthcare. March 23, 2015. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/five-ways-tech-savvy-millennials-alter-health-care-landscape-300054028.html

6. Heuser EZ. How consumers health care preferences vary by age. Advisory Board. Dec. 13, 2017. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.advisory.com/en/topics/patient-acquisition/2017/12/how-consumers-health-care-preferences-vary-by-age

7. Glauser W. Primary care system outdated and inconvenient for many millennials. CMAJ. 2018;190(48):E1430–E1431.

8. Cowan M. Millennial transformation for primary care. Mil Med. 2010;175(6):379–381.

9. 2019 updates in primary care consumer preferences. Advisory Board. 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.advisory.com/-/media/Project/AdvisoryBoard/shared/Research/MIC/Executive-Research-Briefings/2019/2019-Updates-in-Primary-Care-Consumer-Preferences_MIC.pdf

10. Gunja MZ, Collins SR. Who are the remaining uninsured, and why do they lack coverage? The Commonwealth Fund. Aug. 28, 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2019/aug/who-are-remaining-uninsuredand-why-do-they-lack-coverage

11. Ballard J. Millennials are the loneliest generation. YouGov. July 30, 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2019/07/30/loneliness-friendship-new-friends-poll-survey

12. Millennials are lonely: your primary care strategy could help them. Advisory Board. Feb. 12, 2020. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.advisory.com/research/physician-executive-council/prescription-for-change/2020/02/primary-care-strategy

13. Moore K, Mullins A, Solis E, Hughes C. The 2020 Medicare documentation, coding, and payment update. Fam Pract Manag. 2020;27(1):8–13.

14. Manard W. How to provide more access without working more hours. Fam Pract Manag. 2015;22(3):24–29.

15. Mills TL. How to excel at access — and why it matters. Fam Pract Manag. 2018;25(5):27–33.

16. Survey reveals millennials’ relationship with health care. Harmony Healthcare IT blog. Aug. 2, 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.harmonyhit.com/survey-reveals-millennials-relationship-with-health-care/

17. Levine DM, Landon BE, Linder JA. Quality and experience of outpatient care in the United States for adults with or without primary care. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(3):363–372.

18. Q/A: DPC patient ages/income trends. The Direct Prim Care J. November 2019. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://directprimarycare.com/q-a-dpc-patient-ages-income-trends/

19. Pure or hybrid practice. DPC Frontier. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://www.dpcfrontier.com/pure-or-hybrid-practice

20. Sherman MD, Miller LW, Keuler M, Trump L, Mandrich M. Managing behavioral health issues in primary care: six five-minute tools. Fam Pract Manag. 2017;24(2):30–35.


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