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Wellness Wednesday: Importance of Primary Care Doctors

Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 01, 2023

IDAHO — If you have had a primary care doctor for as long as you can remember, you might be surprised to learn that a large number of Idahoans, and Americans in general, don't have a main doctor and miss out on routine preventative care.

Looking at the numbers, 85% baby boomers and older Americans do have a primary care doctor, but that number drops as the generations get younger. About 75% of Gen X'ers have one, roughly 66% for millennials, and a stunning 50% of Gen Z'ers are getting regular checkups from a primary care doctor. And those numbers don't seem to be getting any better as there's been a 10% decrease of American adults with an identified source of primary care over the past ten years. So why is this happening?

"What we learned out of a report that came about a year ago was that there are now nearly 100 million Americans who live in an area with a primary care shortage. There simply are not enough clinicians to deliver the care needed to the population. And the situation is actually even worse in the west, particularly when you look at the disparity between rural or more urban areas. And there are probably several contributing factors to the lack of primary care is just those that I mentioned. There's urgent care centers which people often use for primary care. There's retail clinics, telehealth. There's also even websites, unfortunately, which people go to even though they may offer unvetted medical advice," said Regence Executive Medical Director Dr. Daniel Meltzer.

Dr. Meltzer also adds how critical primary and preventive care is upfront to ensure we're getting the treatment screening that we need ahead of time before diseases develop downstream in younger populations, such as hyperactivity, diabetes, depression, and Crohn's Disease. Prevention can also help catch conditions early that might take decades to evolve, such as cardiovascular disease. If you don't have a primary care doctor and are wanting to look into meeting with one, check with your employer-based health insurance to find one closest to you and one that is covered by your plan. You can also check the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's website or the Federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.