Who provides walk-in services? Survey of primary care practice in Ontario.
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OBJECTIVE: To compare walk-in clinics with other primary care settings on characteristics associated with best practices in primary care. DESIGN: A mailed self-administered questionnaire asked about organizational and clinical characteristics of primary care practices located in major urban and suburban areas in Ontario. SETTING: Four types of fee-for-service group practices: walk-in and urgent-care clinics (WICs), mixed practices (MPs), after-hours clinics (AHCs), and group family practices (GFPs). PARTICIPANTS: A physician or a staff member involved in practice administration. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The four practice types were compared on organizational characteristics and measures of access, continuing care, comprehensiveness, coordination, and mechanisms for monitoring quality of care. RESULTS: Walk-in clinics, MPs, and AHCs were open more hours during evenings and weekends and were more likely to see patients without appointments; GFPs were more likely to have on-call arrangements. Group family practices saw a larger proportion of patients for whom they provided ongoing care; WICs and MPs reported that more than 60% of their visits were with "regular" patients. Walk-in clinics were less likely to provide preventive services and psychological counseling than were GFPs and MPs. A few WICs, MPs, and GFPs had procedures to support coordination of care or to monitor quality of care. CONCLUSION: Although WICs, MPs, and AHCs provided walk-in services to Ontario patients, WICs and MPs also provided a substantial amount of ongoing care and preventive services. Independent AHCs appeared to most closely fit the "walk-in clinic" stereotype.
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