What is the Difference between Family Doctor and Walk In Clinic?

If you live in Canada or the United States, chances are you are familiar with the concept of walk-in clinics. In Ontario, for example, there has been a tremendous rise in the number of these clinics available for patients throughout the province. And people have been flocking to them. So why is this trend increasing and what is the difference between visiting a walk in clinic and a family doctor. Lets examine some of these factors and determine what are the pros and cons of each.

Family Doctor

First, let’s examine the traditional view of visiting the doctor, which is your local friendly family physician. The old model of healthcare in general is based on this concept. People would shop around for a family doctor until they find one that they are comfortable with, perhaps even recommended by a friend or colleague. They would then visit this doctor and that doctor would be their physician for life! Under very few circumstances would people change their family doctor. For example if they moved to another province, or if they are very unhappy with their doctor. However, generally speaking people stuck with one doctor.

The Walk In Clinic Revolution

As the speed of the world changes, people are expecting things much faster. And that has in part lead to the rise of the walking clinics. This model allows people to visit a doctor quickly and on the fly. So what are the pros and cons of these clinics vs the old style doctors?


  • Convenient hours: usually open longer and later that traditional physicians.
  • More geographical dispersion: Clinics are built everywhere, not just in medical buildings
  • Shorter wait time: the old way of waiting hours to see a doctor are one of the reasons why walkin clinics are so popular


  • Impersonal: walking clinics are like fast food vs gourmet cuisine. Its quick but impersonal
  • Not focused: People can see many doctors so having a single point of focus is missing
  • Discontinuity: Visiting drop-in clinics means that it is possible to see a different doctor every time, even when visiting the same clinic

In a recent study in Milton Ontario at Santa Maria Medical center, most people said that they preferred to be able to see a doctor quickly than seeing one whom they are familiar with. You can visit their walk in clinic here to learn more about this study and other resources that are beneficial.


Depending on your tastes and preferences, walk in clinics can provide a good advantage or disadvantage over the traditional family physician. If you’re looking for convenience and speed then that’s the route to take. If you need a single point of focus then sticking with the old model is the way to go.

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