If you are in a large city, there is probably a medical walk-in clinic in your area. It is a facility that provides medical services, without having had to make a previous appointment. A person just has to wait for the next available doctor. There are some facilities that are staffed on a twenty four hour basis.

One of the drawbacks of the walk-in clinics is that the patient does not always see the same physician. There is no continuity of service, except for what is written on the medical charts. In the days when people used ‘a family doctor’, that physician saw that person on a regular basis. Perhaps that physician also saw other members of the family. There was a relationship that extended, for some families, for decades.

Perhaps, for the most part, those days are gone. Many people want their medical services in a fast food manner: available, fast and now – with very little waiting. One of the missing elements is that this does not give the physician a chance to see the person on a regular basis. The regular interaction is important. Are there any facial changes? Is the speech the same? Has the patient’s presentation changed in any manner? These and a myriad of other questions are not easy to qualify or quantify on a medical chart. It is gleaned from the physician knowing the patient.

That sort of long term personal interaction is lost in most walk-in clinic situations. The attending physician at the walk-in clinic treats the problem and may never see that person again. Some people say that continuity of service will be resolved partially with electronic data bases, where access to a person’s medical records is available across venues. That, however, will not replace the importance of a relationship and having a family physician see a person, face-to-face, over the years. It may seem old fashioned, in this electronic age, but that long term human interaction is still important and sometimes crucial.

Catherine Forsythe