Appointment Wait Time Key in Choosing Care Setting

Study also finds that patients prefer a physician visit but may opt for a retail clinic for cost savings
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- Appointment wait time was the most important factor in a patient's decision to seek medical care for a minor illness at a retail clinic or a traditional physician's office, according to research published in the March/April issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Arif Ahmed, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri in Kansas City, and colleagues analyzed data on 493 subjects interviewed in a telephone poll by the Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia. The poll asked respondents to choose the medical setting where they would seek care given the following scenarios: price $59 or $75, an appointment the same day or one day later, care from a nurse practitioner/retail clinic or from a physician/private office, and a urinary tract infection or influenza.

The authors note that respondents said they favored care for both conditions, but were less apt to seek care for a urinary tract infection (β, −0.149), preferred to see a physician (β, 1.067), and preferred same day care (β, −2.789). Researchers found that, with all other conditions equal, a savings of $31.42 would prompt patients to seek care at a retail clinic, and a savings of $82.12 to wait a day longer for an appointment.

"Time and cost savings offered by retail clinics are attractive to patients, and they are likely to seek care there given sufficient cost savings. Appointment wait time is the most important factor in care-seeking decisions and should be considered carefully in setting appointment policies in primary care practices," the authors write.

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