Walk-in clinics in Ontario. An atmosphere of tension.
OBJECTIVE: To explore family practice (FP), emergency department (ED), and walk-in clinic (WIC) physicians' perceptions and experiences regarding the effect of walk-in clinics on Ontario's health care system. DESIGN: Qualitative method of focus groups. SETTING: Hamilton, London, and Toronto, Ont. PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-three physicians participated in nine focus groups, each with four to nine participants. Family physicians, ED physicians, and WIC physicians attended separate focus groups. METHOD: Nine focus groups were conducted in three cities in Ontario. Physicians' opinions, perceptions, and experiences regarding the role and effect of WICs on Ontario's health care system were explored. Focus groups were audiotaped and comments transcribed verbatim. The qualitative data analysis program NUD*IST was used to organize the data during sequential thematic analysis. MAIN FINDINGS: Participants identified two key factors contributing to the evolution of WICs: patients' expectations for convenient health care and the perceived limited availability of family physicians. Participants thought these two related factors resulted in a gap in primary care services that WICs had filled. Throughout discussions, an atmosphere of tension permeated the focus groups. Tension seemed to arise from issues of duplication, competition, standards of practice and quality of care in WICs, the effect of environmental and personal factors on physicians' practice, and the practice philosophy adopted by WIC physicians. CONCLUSION: Both FP and ED participants acknowledged their contribution to the gap in primary care services. They appeared to attribute current problems in health care delivery to the perceived deficiencies of WICs. The outcome was a marked tension among participants.
Brown, JB; Bouck, LMS; Østbye, T; Barnsley, JM; Mathews, M; Ogilvie, G
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