By Michelle Martin, APRN, FNP-C, family nurse practitioner
A 2017 Harris Poll study revealed 66 percent of respondents said they would seek healthcare from sources other than their primary care provider (PCP) such as urgent care clinics or retail pharmacy clinics. 43 percent of these patients cited the “inability to schedule a non-urgent appointment within the same week” as the top reason they would seek medical attention from someone other than their PCP.
To address this gap, more primary care clinics are offering walk-in health care in addition to same day and scheduled appointments.
Benefits of Walk-in Health Services at a PCP Location
Access to medical records:
What many patients do not realize is that medical records resulting from appointments at other medical providers are not automatically shared with the patient’s PCP.
In this same Harris Poll , 65 percent of respondents said they assumed their PCPs would receive updates on their urgent care visits. In fact, the patient must request in writing with a signature that the urgent care, retail pharmacy clinic or other medical provider send the patient’s medical notes from the appointment to the patient’s PCP. The only possible exception is if the urgent care is owned by the same health system as the primary care clinic and a single electronic health records (EHR) system is used at all locations.
Ease of scheduling follow-up:
“Follow up with your PCP” is a standard among discharge instructions for patients seeking urgent or walk in health services. Seeking walk-in care at your PCP’s office enables you to schedule any needed follow-up appointments at the time initial help is received; no need to make additional phone calls or go online to schedule an appointment once you get home.
Less potential exposure to illnesses:
Because most patients at the PCP’s office have scheduled appointments many of which are for preventive healthcare (wellness exams, allergy management, etc.), you are likely less exposed to patients with contagious illnesses. While all healthcare facilities- including urgent cares and retail clinics- are likely following strict protocols during COVID-19 to maintain social distancing and sanitary measures, outside of a pandemic, many people seeking urgent care are ill or injured and sitting near each other in the waiting area or lobby.
Some PCP locations that offer walk-in health services offer Saturday hours in addition to being open Monday-Friday. In some cases, PCP locations also have extended hours Monday-Friday, opening earlier and staying open later to support walk-in care.
We encourage you to seek the attention you need when you need it.
Remember, if you have a medical emergency, call 911 or have someone take you immediately to a local hospital’s emergency department (ED). If your PCP does not offer walk-in healthcare or is not open when you have a non-emergent medical illness or injury, urgent care or retail clinics are an option; these locations are generally open seven days a week, including evenings and are staffed by licensed medical providers. Be certain to follow up with your PCP if you receive care anywhere besides his/her office.