Walk-in clinics certainly have their place. If you come down with bronchitis or flu Saturday, and your primary care physician doesn’t have weekend hours, it’s a wonderful alternative to sitting in the ER. However, more and more, I see people using these resources INSTEAD of seeing their primary care physician, or worse, not seeing a primary care physician at all!
There is a better way, though. If you’re sick, I would rather see you, or have one of my colleagues see you. The entire purpose of having a primary care physician is to have a relationship with someone that knows YOU. Your personal doctor knows what is and isn’t normal for you. When you see them, they know your entire history. They know what has worked and what hasn’t in the past for you. This makes for a better diagnosis.
Additionally, it often is less expensive and faster. Going to the ER is always more expensive, and wait times at urgent cares can vary depending on the time and day. Also, seeing your own doctor may avoid any unnecessary testing on that “one thing that’s always abnormal on my test,” because again, they know YOU.
Lastly, seeing your own doctor leads to overall better healthcare. It’s not uncommon for me to see a patient who has relied on seeing “whoever’s around,” only to realize she’s 53, not having had her first colonoscopy, a mammogram in three years or a Pap smear in four. Seeing whoever is around means no one person takes responsibility for the routine preventative measures because that doctor assumes someone else is always taking care of things.
I know, people always say, “well my doctor never has openings.” Maybe true, but next time you see your doctor ask them how to handle that situation. I know many of us will find a way to fit you in if you call. I tell my patients who to ask for and/or how to message me quickly. Many times, if I can’t see them I can get one of my partners in my office to see them or I will fit them in myself in 24 hours, call in meds, etc.
Yes, sometimes the walk-in clinic is just easier and has its place. We’ve all been there. But next time, please call me first. Odds are I’ll be able to take care of you just as easily and quickly, if not more so.