8 Ways to Compete Successfully With Retail Clinics

Leigh Page


February 19, 2019

In This Article

Extend Physician Schedules to Meet Patient Demand

Staggering physicians' work hours can help address this issue. Sora Medical Clinic, a two-physician direct primary care practice in Plano, Texas, is open almost 70 hours a week, because the partners work at different times, says Michael Hellemn, MD, one of the partners.

Is having to work on some weekends a hardship for Hellemn? "It's really not a big deal," he says. "Our kids are grown."

If you do extend the hours of your practice, make sure patients know about it. Have signs in your office, and send an email telling patients about your night or weekend hours. And consider doing more than one email announcement. Many people do not read every single email they receive; if they missed one of yours, give them the opportunity to read another.

3. Offer Same-Day Appointments

For a busy practice with a backed-up schedule, offering same-day appointments can reduce patient wait time. You can achieve this by holding back a few slots each day for last-minute appointments, or by simply fitting in same-day patients between scheduled appointments.

Robert Wergin, MD, a family physician in Milford, Nebraska, explained how his practice allocated same-day slots in a 2015 Medscape article.[4]

He said the slots were set aside for patients with low-acuity conditions that basically match those that retail clinics treat. Wergin said he or his physician assistant ducked in to see these patients between their other appointments. The amount of time required did not throw their day's schedule off.

The Iowa Clinic in Johnston, Iowa, took a different approach.[4] The clinic started the day with 10%-20% of appointments unfilled. These slots were given to patients who called up or walked in. Remaining slots could be filled by calling patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, and asking them to come in for a regular check-up.

One risk, of course, is that you'll have too many open slots and will be losing money because you are holding spaces open.

4. Make Walk-ins a Part of Your Practice

Many practices don't allow walk-ins because staff has little time to check on insurance information or pull up the patient's chart so that the doctor can read up on the patient.

For physicians who don't take insurance, which is the case for Hellemn, this factor is not an issue. As a direct primary care doctor, his patients pay out-of-pocket for their care. He spaces out appointments every half-hour, he says, so that a walk-in can be handled in between scheduled appointments.

However, most physicians do work with insurance. So another way to accommodate walk-ins is to offer a "sick clinic" for low-acuity conditions, staffed by a nurse practitioner, for a couple of hours every morning. Patients who call the night before can be directed to the sick clinic next morning, rather than to the emergency department of the local hospital.[5]


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