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What Retail Clinics Have That Medical Practices Don't (And Why They Should)

November 02,2015

Like it or not, walk-in health clinics are here to stay. Their growth has been fueled by access and convenience. More convenient hours, more convenient locations, more convenient to walk in without an appointment. Between 2006 and 2012 the number of patient visits at retail clinics increased from 1.5 million to 10.5 million and has continued to rise. (1) 

Before you think it….they're not just being used by uninsured patients who don't have a doctor. Patients with established patient-physician relationships are also frequenting these retail clinics. In an article in JAMA Pediatrics in September, 2013, over 1,000 patients were surveyed in the Midwest to assess their attitudes toward, and experiences with, retail clinic pediatric care. Almost one fourth of parents who had a primary care pediatrician indicated that they had taken their children to a retail clinic. Convenience was cited as the primary reason. In fact, close to 50% of the retail clinic visits occurred during weekdays when the pediatrician's office was open. (2)

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Inefficient Communication = Inconvenience

The growth of retail clinics indicates that convenience attracts patients. Physician practices however are not convenient from the patient experience perspective. Why? The phone system is often difficult to navigate. Patients wait hours for a response to a simple question. To schedule or cancel an appointment or get a prescription refill can be a time-consuming, waiting on hold hassle. Physicians can bury their head in the sand and continue business as usual or recognize that they need to become more consumer friendly.

Texting has become part of our daily lives. It's fast. It's easy. It's direct. Yet physician practices continue to rely on the old fashioned phone call. Time on hold, missed calls and lengthy waits for a response are not going to cut it in our consumer-driven world. Healthcare needs to catch up.

Imagine taking the speed and convenience of text and applying it to your practice. What do you think would be your patient's reaction if they could text the office for an appointment, refill a prescription, get an answer to a question, send a picture of a rash that's still not improving? The response would likely be …."Wow, this is awesome. This makes it so convenient.

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Consider improving your patient's experience (and save yourself time) by giving them convenience in the palm of their hand.

Dana Allison, Chief Operating Officer, IM Your Doc