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Published on October 23, 2017

Many people have a strong bond with their  physician

Going to urgent care when we’re sick is easy.

But it can’t replace the more personalized care we get from a primary care physician (PCP).

Doctor and patient smilingThat’s the conclusion of a study conducted earlier this year by the Harris Poll on behalf of Mercy Health System of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The survey asked more than 1,700 U.S. adults about their relationship with their PCP and if they had recently been treated someplace other than their doctor’s office—such as an urgent care center—for a health problem. Among the survey results:

  • Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) of the respondents believed their PCPs care about them.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) believed their PCP knows them personally.
  • Three out of four respondents (75 percent) knew the name of their PCP. In contrast, very few knew the name of a care provider who most recently treated them at a retail health clinic (15 percent), urgent care center (12 percent) or free clinic (8 percent).

Although the study respondents did value their time with their PCP, many would go to an urgent care center if, for instance, it was too much hassle to make an appointment with their PCP or if their actual PCP wasn’t always available when they came in for an appointment.

“We did the study because we wanted to enhance our understanding of the dynamics that affect interactions between patients and their PCPs,” says William J. Strimel, DO, President, Mercy Physician Network. “Urgent care centers and retail health clinics provide needed care for minor health problems in the evening or on the weekends, when it’s not possible to see a PCP. But they aren’t a substitute for the type of continuous medical care that a PCP provides. In other words, having a personal connection with your PCP matters.”

Only 36% of patients say they followed up with their primary care doctor after their most recent urgent care center visit.

65% of patients assume their doctors receive updates on their urgent care visit automatically.

75% of patients know the name of their primary care doctor.

12% of patients know the name of the urgent care center medical professional who most recently treated them.

Scheduling issues with their primary care office would cause two-thirds of patients to seek services elsewhere.

This study was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Mercy Health System of Southeastern Pennsylvania in February 2017 among 1,735 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who have a primary care physician, whom we describe as patients.

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