Compass Urgent Care closes its two Alabama clinics just four days a year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Easter.

When setting the schedule, medical director Dr. Richard Oyler, known as Dr. O, weighed the needs of his patients and his employees. After working for 18 years in an emergency department, Dr. O understood the drain of staying open every day of the year.

“If we were the only option in the city, it would make me think differently,” he said, pointing out that there are several emergency rooms nearby that are open those holidays. “These are important family days. Down here, family is important for the community and our employees. We’ve had patients say they’re proud of us for closing on those days.”

Dr. O considered closing early on the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, but he’s found the clinics are very busy on those days. He sees many patients from out-of-town who fall ill during travel and are trying to recover for the holiday.

FastMed’s network of nearly 100 urgent care centers in North Carolina and Arizona meet patients in the middle. Some of FastMed’s clinics close for the holidays, while others stay open with reduced hours.

“We close certain locations strategically, based on the previous year’s trends,” said Reuel Heyden, FastMed spokesman. “That approach reduces the number of staff that have to be away from their families, but it still gives patients an option.”

FastMed markets its holiday hours weeks ahead of time, Heyden said, by hanging signs and putting a ticker item on the in-office television feed.

In his recent article “Making a Business Case for Holiday Urgent Care Hours,” Alan Ayers explores many factors in play for setting holiday clinic hours.

Ayers, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Practice Velocity, points to financial considerations and the goal for urgent care centers to remain open 12-14 hours every day of the year. That availability underscores the urgent care ethos that fast, convenient and affordable care is an option even when primary care isn’t available and emergency care isn’t required.

Ayers points to several reasons urgent care centers could see an increase in patient encounters on holidays:

  • Injuries – such as burns or lacerations – from cooking accidents.
  • Knee, ankle and hip sprains from slips and falls during decorating.
  • Heartburn/indigestion from overindulging in food and drink.
  • Food-borne illness from eating improper cooking prep or storage.
  • Recreational activity injuries, from 5/10k runs, golf tournaments or pickup football games.

Ultimately, the key to devising a successful holiday strategy, Ayers said, is to take a holistic approach that considers the perspectives, needs, and options of all relevant audiences—patients, payers, occupational medicine clients, and your providers and staff.