Walk-in Clinics at the Office of the Primary Care Provider: A Necessary Convenience

Updated on February 6, 2017

Appointment based health-care for acute visits have been declining in America.  Patients are utilizing the growing number of walk-in clinics for their acute care needs rather than being seen by their Primary Care Physician (PCP).

When asked why they are choosing this route, the answer almost always comes down to a matter of convenience.  Walk in clinics accept self-pay patients and most insurances with an average wait time from entry to exit of less than ninety minutes. The clinics are typically open evenings, weekends, and holidays, treat a large variety of acute illnesses, and offer diagnostics, treatments, and medications for purchase on-site.

A major downfall to the walk-in clinic is the provider does not have access to the patient’s medical records.  The PCP has access to the patient’s medical record and can review personal and family history, active problem list, current medication list, and allergies.  The patient and PCP have developed a rapport with one another, making the PCP more likely to pick up on subtle changes from the patient’s baseline and exacerbations of acute on chronic problems.  With this information, the PCP is also more likely to prescribe medications safely with fewer drug- to drug interactions.

Many PCPs offer same day appointments, but those appointments fill quickly, especially during cold and flu season.  A developing trend is offering walk-in clinics at the office of the PCP.  The patient can feel more comfortable being seen by a Physician, Physician’s Assistant, or Nurse Practitioner, they know and trust. Walk-in clinics at the PCP offer diagnostics such as influenza testing and blood draws, treatments such as nebulizers and intravenous fluid resuscitation, and medications for purchase such as generic antibiotics.

The patient also has the ability to be scheduled for follow-up care, which is typically not done at traditional walk-in clinics. This ensures the patient’s acute problem is being monitored and effectively treated. For example, a patient treated for pneumonia at a walk-in clinic at the PCP would likely be scheduled for a follow-up visit in which the provider could not only ensure the pneumonia has cleared, but may review the vaccination record and determine if a vaccine for prevention of pneumonia is warranted to prevent future infection.

By offering walk-in clinics at the PCP, the provider is able to deliver the patient the comprehensive care they need to manage their acute problems with respect to their chronic problems in the most convenient environment for the patient.

Dr. Joseph Kimmell is a doctor of osteopathic medicine and certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians. He’s been a partner in the Koman & Kimmell Family Practice for the past 10 years and serves on the Genesis Board of Directors. Janelle Heine, DNP and CRNP, is a family nurse practitioner with Genesis Medical Associates Koman and Kimmell Family Practice in Ross Township, PA.