Walk-In Patients Reflect the State of the Healthcare Industry

There used to be a time when walk-in patients were not stigmatized or frowned upon by medical professionals. Whereas today they are called “unscheduled” patients, back then, they were affectionately welcomed and treated with kindness and respect. This changed with the emergence of urgent care facilities and the shift in the healthcare industry.

Why did this happen and how can we approach this problem? What should we do to make walk-in patients feel welcomed again? Let’s take a look!

Walk-In Patients Prefer Emergency Care Vs. Primary Care

Objectively speaking, more and more walk-in patients are going to the ER or the nearest urgent care center for afflictions that could have easily been treated in a primary care setting. Scientists are still exploring this phenomenon. Apparently, there are three main reasons for this preference for emergency care:

  • Faster service and convenience
  • Healthcare mistrust and negative opinion about primary care
  • Several barriers to accessing primary care

Let’s look at each one individually and see what they’re all about.

  1. Faster Service and Convenience

Around 3 in 4 Americans prefer going to the ED than the doctor’s office. In fact, a survey shows that 65% of respondents prefer going to the ER if they can’t see a doctor quickly enough. Moreover, 30% of the respondents self-treat and 25% don’t get the care they need at all.

  1. Healthcare Mistrust and Negative Opinion About Primary Care

The healthcare industry has lost much of its trust ever since the pandemic. There are many negative perceptions surrounding both doctors and medical institutions. African Americans are especially more likely to distrust doctors due to racial disparities and other inequities.

These types of patients might not seek medical attention and prefer going to the ER when the issues become severe enough. Many of these ER visits could have been avoided if the patients had gone to a primary medical provider for routine checkups.

  1. Several Barriers to Accessing Primary Care

Timely appointments are the number one issue that many patients are confronted with. Primary care is simply not accessible, even for routine checkups. Wait times go as long as a couple of months for some people. A 2022 study shows that the average wait time for a primary care appointment was around 18 days, which is simply mind-stumping.

Moreover, the same study shows that, compared to 2004, the wait time had increased by 24%. Naturally, when patients can’t access primary care due to excessively-long wait-times, they’ll go to the ER.

Value-Based Care as a Shift from ER to Primary Care Visits

You needn’t look further than this study to know that the solution for the ER preference and the high number of hospitalizations is value-based care. This form of treatment was associated with 13.4% fewer department visits and 5.6% fewer hospitalizations compared to patients treated in the fee-for-service model.

In a nutshell, value-based care offers a patient-centric approach that emphasizes the doctor-patient relationship instead of the fee-for-service model. This means that doctors can better build a trust-based rapport with their patients. Here’s how a value-based care model works:

  • Immediate access to care – Walk-in patients will have access to medical services at any time, even through phone calls or text messages
  • Reduced patient panels. This will allow doctors to be more open to walk-in patients and allocate more time to each patient
  • Shift in language – The value-based care model acknowledges that patients might need medical assistance at any time, hence the “walk-in patient” denomination. Same-day appointments should become much more common to help these patients

All in all, the current phenomenon of walk-in patients preferring the ER over the primary care setting is caused by the fee-for-service model. A value-based care system would solve most of these problems. For more information, you can call Primary Medical Care Center at (305) 751-1500 or use our online platform for more information!