Are less of your patients showing up for simple consultations or urgent issues like flu vaccines, sprains, or common infections? You might be losing patients to retail clinics.
Retail clinics at Walgreens, CVS/Caremark, and Walmart are gaining popularity among patients who need quick care for minor injuries or illnesses. The number of retail clinics is projected to grow by 25%-30% a year. Large corporations are trying to capitalize on the shortfall of primary care physicians – but the lack of follow-up care and understanding of a patient’s medical history can lead to less than ideal clinical outcomes. The lack of care continuity justifiably worries many primary care physicians.
The reason patients turn to these clinics is straightforward: It’s much more convenient. A 2014 study found that wait times for primary care offices are at an all-time high of 18 days. As a result, many patients can’t get in to see their primary care provider for issues that need immediate attention. At retail clinics, patients can get a same-day appointment or just walk in. They usually don’t have to sit in a waiting room too long either — most see the doctor in less than 30 minutes.
Many patients would prefer to see their own doctor for urgent care – yet because practices are overloaded and don't always manage their schedules to accommodate short urgent care visits, primary care providers are missing out on important revenue.
Here are some simple strategies your practice can implement today to retain your patients, and increase your revenue:
- Accommodate same-day appointments. Since urgent care visits typically take considerably less time than most other visits, allocating a few open spots on your daily schedule would allow you to accommodate urgent care visits.
- Let your patients know that you will see them quickly. Create a flyer or sign in your waiting room – or provider cards and magnets to remind patients that the next time they don’t feel well and want to be seen quickly, they can come to you. Let your patients know that they can be seen quickly – either in person or through telemedicine (more on that below).
- Provide virtual-based services. Most patients would prefer to stay home when they are feeling ill. Offering to consult patients via a web-based system is an added benefit that will prevent patients from going to a retail clinic. Furthermore, most virtual visits are shorter than normal office visits, so they can be easier to fit into your appointment schedule.
- Offer cash discounts. For patients without insurance, offer to see them for a small fee – check the rates of the local retail competitors and set your rate at a similar price level.
Although retail clinics offer convenience, they are not a good replacement for primary care. The most effective treatment comes from a trusted physician who knows a patient’s past medical history and can ensure continuity of care. While many primary care providers are being taxed with higher patient volumes, remember that urgent care visits tend to be short and offering these services can increase practice revenue while providing better clinical outcomes.