Practices take a look at extending office hours

By Pamela Lewis Dolan, AMNews staff.
http://www.ama-assn.org

The growth of in-store clinics, which sell themselves on convenience, has some physicians thinking again about expanding their clinic hours to nights and weekends.

There are other reasons for practices to consider adjusting or expanding hours. Some see it as a way to alleviate unnecessary use of emergency departments, and others want to gain a competitive edge on attracting and keeping patients.

In any case, experts and physicians who have experience with expanding their clinic hours say extending office time is more than just putting a sign on the door saying you’re open later.

First there’s the matter of making sure every physician in the practice supports the idea. Then there’s ensuring there are enough patients who would take advantage of the extended hours to justify the additional costs of staff, utilities, supplies and everything else needed to support a longer day.

Getting everyone on board with the idea is the first step in making the change, said Robert Kenagy, MD, chief medical officer for Wichita (Kan.) Clinics.

Dr. Kenagy, a family physician, said that before his 10-clinic network decided to convert its Newton County clinic to extended hours, he had a series of meetings with the physicians who practice there.

“We didn’t want to start up and then three months later decide not to do it anymore,” Dr. Kenagy said. “We wanted to be sure they were committed to this concept.” As it turned out, they were.

So was the staff. About 75% of the staff volunteered to work weekend shifts, Dr. Kenagy said.
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