Healthy Living

Dr. Hoersten Explains Why Young Adults Need a Primary Care Provider

Apr 16 2024

According to data trends, if you are a young adult in your 20s or 30s, you’re less likely to have a primary care provider.

Many young adults are busy individuals, whether it’s completing education, building their careers, buying homes or starting families. Health care for you may be less about connection and more about convenience by relying on urgent care centers and similar resources for your medical needs.

However, these health care facilities alone are not the best option for your overall well-being. While they can be an alternative besides the emergency department, they are not meant to replace the role of a primary care provider in your life.

In fact, there are many benefits to establishing with a primary care provider early on in life.

First, your primary care provider forms the foundation of your health care.

“Primary care providers are responsible for caring for the whole person, and they are more effectively able to do this when the relationship is started at a younger age,” Tricia Hoersten, MD, academic chief resident at Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center, explains. “Establishing care with a primary care provider will allow the provider to learn about your complete health history and anticipate any challenges that may arise.”

Whole-person care means your primary care provider is trained to have a full view and understanding of your health. And this type of doctor-patient relationship is more important than you may think.

Imagine you have visited several different urgent care centers over the past year or two for different illnesses or injuries. In the process, you have seen multiple health care professionals. Each provider only had parts of your health history, making it difficult for them to get an accurate picture of your overall health.

Now, imagine you had a primary care provider. One medical expert would have been at the front lines of your care for each illness or injury. Armed with a well-rounded knowledge of your overall health, they’re much more able to spot any patterns, make a more informed diagnosis and suggest treatments that better suit your unique needs.

And if you are starting to think about growing a family, having a family doctor who knows you, your medical history and is someone you trust are all the more important. Primary care providers, such as family medicine physicians, are trained to care for all ages and to help people face the health challenges of every stage of life.

Second, visits with a primary care provider save you time, money and more.

Research shows that primary care is associated with lower costs and higher patient satisfaction. It’s also related to fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits, both of which are very costly. Most importantly, primary care is associated with a lower mortality rate. Patients with primary care providers have decreased risks of rapidly declining health.

A primary care provider also helps you to stay off the roller coaster of time-consuming, painful and costly testing. Health care professionals at urgent care centers and emergency rooms won’t have your whole history. So, this may lead them to order tests that you could have avoided.

“Having a primary care provider as a young adult does not mean you have to commit to repeat appointments if you are otherwise healthy,” Dr. Hoersten shares. “Many providers may only see their younger patients at their annual wellness visit. However, there is value in having a person in your corner who you can reach out to when you have questions about your health or help spot any health issues or trends early on.”

Third, preventive care is vital, particularly for young adults.

primary care provider offers health screenings and examinations that prevent or uncover health problems early on. This preventive care may save you the high expenses that come with serious health problems. It also could help you avoid the trauma, time off work and disruption in your life these conditions bring.

“In family medicine, preventive care is one of the areas that we really love to focus on the most, because it’s helping to prevent disease before it even happens,” Dr. Hoersten says. “When we think about preventive medicine, we really like to start young, because that’s when we can do the most good for our patients.”

Some of the most common preventive screenings and exams for young adults include:

  • Depression: “This is so prevalent in our society today, and we want to make sure that we’re caring for the entire person, which includes their mental health,” Dr. Hoersten explains. “So, every year we recommend a screening for depression.”
  • Cervical cancer: “In young adult females, we found if we screen with routine pap exams, starting at age 21, that we have been able to really decrease the prevalence of the cervical cancer over the course of several years,” Dr. Hoersten says.
  • Cholesterol: “When we screen for lipids, we see if you have a high risk for developing high cholesterol,” Dr. Hoersten continues. “How then can we intervene? We like to know if you’re at risk, because that’s going to change your risk for heart attack and stroke as you get older.”

Your primary care provider can determine which preventive screenings and exams would best serve your health, based on your age, gender, family history and other personal factors.

“I would definitely recommend talking with your primary care physician if you have questions about any preventive care screenings,” Dr. Hoersten adds. “We are well versed in what specific preventive exams and screenings are recommended for each individual.”

Fourth, there are plenty of excellent primary care providers available.

If you typically research new products and services, you should do the same when looking for a primary care provider. Doing your homework on primary care providers will help you find the practice where you feel most comfortable.

“I encourage young adults, especially, to not be afraid to take the time to find a primary care provider who you feel like you gel well with and can create that relationship with,” Dr. Hoersten adds. “You’re going to be able to carry that for years into the future, when you have someone who you can go to, who already knows you.”

Today’s primary care providers are changing to meet the needs of new patients. You may prefer to find a primary care provider who offers the following:

Learn about the primary care services we provide at Mercy Health.

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