5 reasons docs may want to extend their office hours

Doctor talking to senior patient and her husband
Doctor talking to female patient and her husband. Photo credit: Getty/Olgachov

Today’s patients want to schedule an appointment very much the same way they buy running shoes on Amazon or book a trip on Travelocity. They want the same convenience they enjoy as consumers. But many doctors find their practices also benefit when they extend their office hours.

To compete with retail health providers, such as CVS Health and American Family Care, and keep patients out of the emergency room, Lawrence, Kansas-based Family Medicine Associates opens its doors at 7 a.m. each weekday—and offers a walk-in clinic for current patients and the general public alike, reports Medical Economics. One of Jackson, Michigan-based Henry Ford Allegiance Medical Group’s practices starts even earlier, welcoming patients at 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; it’s also open on Saturdays.

Nathan Bloom, M.D., a physician at Family Medicine Associates, says the extended hours allow his practice to provide quality care that’s cost-effective and personalized. Another benefit to extending his practice hours? Providers at his practice know their patients and have access to their records—and that reduces waste.

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More proof that convenience is king: New patients have joined his practice because of its extended hours, Brian Adamczyk, M.D., interim medical director at Henry Ford Allegiance Medical Group, tells Medical Economics.

Extending hours seems to keep patients out of the ER. UK researchers found that primary care practices with extended hours experienced a 26%  relative reduction in patient-initiated ER visits for minor problems. Further, for every three appointments booked at a primary care practice, an ER visit was avoided. While there was no fall in ER visits overall, the UK National Health Service saved $767,000.

Still, practices should be mindful about the possibility of physician burnout. That’s because extending practice hours makes work-life balance a challenge, reports Medical Economics.

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