Walk-in clinics: patient expectations and family physician availability.
BACKGROUND: For over two decades, there has been controversy over the role and impact of walk-in clinics on primary health care. This study evaluates the providers' perspective on this topic. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of family physicians, emergency physicians and walk-in clinic physicians regarding the impact of walk-in clinics on Ontario's health care system. METHODS: The qualitative method of focus groups was used in this study. There were nine focus groups, each consisting of 4-9 participants, with a total of 63 physicians. The different practitioners (family physicians, emergency physicians, walk-in clinic physicians) attended separate focus groups. The focus groups explored the physicians' perceptions and experiences regarding the role and impact of walk-in clinics on Ontario's health care system. The focus groups were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. The qualitative data analysis program NUD*IST was used to organize the data during the sequential thematic analysis. RESULTS: Factors contributing to the growth and evolution of walk-in clinics in Ontario were identified. These included a perceived increase in patients' expectations for convenient health care and a perceived decrease in the availability of family physicians. These factors created a gap in primary care which was filled by walk-in clinics. CONCLUSIONS: Participants' recommendations for narrowing this gap included an increase in both physician and patient accountability and changes to the current structure of primary health care delivery. These recommendations would either integrate walk-in clinics into the health care system or result in their elimination.
Brown, JB; Sangster, LM; Ostbye, T; Barnsley, JM; Mathews, M; Ogilvie, G
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