Retail health clinics are growing in popularity. In 2017, there were approximately 2,000 urgent care clinics. Now there are more than 10,000. These clinics offer same-day, walk-in appointments. More importantly, they are less expensive, with an average visit costing $168. But visits to retail clinics, like those found in Target, cost only approximately $85—without health insurance.
Although these services provide primary care for patients, should ophthalmologists follow the trend?
Patients complaining of eye problems, such as “red eye,” tend to visit ERs, primary care physicians, or these quick clinics. There, they are often overprescribed—by nonophthalmologists—antibiotics, which increases the cost of healthcare and promotes antibiotic resistance. It may also prolong the infection.
In addition, patients—specifically young adults—prefer the accessibility of clinics. A RAND study demonstrated that 43% of clinic patients were ages 18 to 44 years. They value the efficiency and convenience, and that they can be seen when symptoms appear.
For ophthalmologists, adopting this approach may seem daunting. One strategy is to build routine urgent visits into your daily schedule. This builds a culture of “yes,” in which patients feel they can be seen when they want.
Keeping patients is the goal, as is providing them with better urgent care. Despite the challenges this poses, it is possible to provide same-day care, and may be necessary for younger patients.
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