Q and A James Liffrig FirstHealth Convenient Care

With concerns about COVID-19, many are wondering if it’s safe to go to a convenient care clinic or primary care clinic for care. 

James Liffrig, M.D., medical director of FirstHealth Convenient Care and board-certified family medicine physician with FirstHealth Family Medicine-Seven Lakes, addressed these concerns, new safety measures and how patients can safely access medical care.

To start a telephone visit with a FirstHealth Convenient Care provider, please call (833) 715-2819.

Q: People are afraid to come into clinics, even when they have a health concern. Why is this an issue?

Dr. Liffrig: “People are very anxious, and they should be. They’re properly heeding advice and directives from our leaders to hunker down and stay at home and practice social distancing. That’s great. They need to do that, absolutely. In addition, they have this anxiety not just of social gatherings in typical places, but also of coming to a medical clinic. A waiting room could be a place of fear and anxiety for some.

Rather than coming in and risking being exposed to COVID-19, they’re staying home. The problem is that the typical illnesses and injuries that go on in the background, that are not COVID related, are still happening. People are still getting sick, and they’re still becoming injured, but they’re not coming in to see us. This is system-wide, not just here. They’re staying home and that unmet need is not being addressed.

All clinics are taking precautionary steps to ensure patient safety, not only the offices primarily conducting curbside visits. The methods may differ slightly from clinic to clinic, but maintaining patient safety and comfort is the priority across the board.”

What strategies have Convenient Care clinics implemented to address these concerns?

Dr. Liffrig: “FirstHealth Convenient Care has implemented robust strategies to leverage both the technical and non-technical methods to address those fears. These will allow patients to come in and safely get their acute health care needs taken care of.

We’re providing greater access to the same high-quality care that patients are used to receiving from FirstHealth—even during this time of national crisis. We want patients to come in when it’s appropriate, and we want them to feel safe about doing it.

First of all, we’ve started conducting curbside visits. This is for both COVID-19 screening and testing, and other minor illnesses and problems that may not require an extensive clinic visit. Depending on the nature of their problem, some of these patients may complete an entire visit while remaining in their car.

For patients who require a more detailed evaluation in the clinic, we’ll register them from their car by telephone. We’ll let them know when it’s time to come in. In some cases, staff can go out to their car and accompany them into the clinic.

Another option is to call (833) 715- 2819 to arrange to have a visit with a FirstHealth Convenient Care provider over the phone.  We will determine if a telephone visit is appropriate for you, and if it is, one of our Convenient Care providers will call you back.  You can receive care from FirstHealth Convenient Care without leaving your home.

Again, our goal is to reduce the risk of exposure by eliminating long waits in a group setting in a waiting area. Patients may now schedule a visit ahead of time by calling one of our convenient care clinics.  Patients will call once they arrive in the parking lot and are able to complete registration from their car, and we’ll let them know when it’s time to come in.”

Are there any other resources available to patients who want to do virtual visits?

Dr. Liffrig: “Yes. Virtual visits via telemedicine is something that will be available very soon. This will allow a visual face-to-face, web-based encounter from the home directly with a convenient care or primary care provider.

FirstHealth On The Go is another great option for improved, safe access. That’s a web-based function accessible through any smart phone. Patients can quickly download the app from their Apple or Android app store or directly from the FirstHealth website. It works similar to the telemedicine option. It allows patients to speak directly to a FirstHealth physician through their smart phone. It’s a very nice application that takes them through an algorithm-based assessment so we can determine if it’s an appropriate and safe complaint to be managed with a non-clinic visit.”

What safety measures are implemented when primary care and convenient care providers are testing for COVID-19 specifically?

Dr. Liffrig: “Bottom line is that all staff and providers, when addressing a COVID-related complaint, will have personal protective equipment (PPE). That’s our second line of defense. Obviously the first line of defense is distancing patients from other people, and for that reason we’ve implemented the curbside testing procedures.

The staff that either does the screening, or the COVID-19 testing of a patient who meets criteria, will use gloves, a mask, eye protection and a gown. If the patient requires an in-clinic evaluation, he or she is required to wear a mask and is escorted into the clinic. In most cases, we can take them through a side entrance so they can avoid the waiting area completely.

In the exam room, staff and providers wear their PPE through the remainder of the visit. The room is then cleaned using established protocols and we’re able to turn that room over right away. We follow the policies established by FirstHealth based on OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.” 

Anything else patients should be aware of?

Dr. Liffrig: “The FirstHealth website is a powerful resource for patients and staff. They can surf that to find out how to access each one of our clinics, both primary care and convenient care. It is also a resource for COVID-19 and general health-related information. There’s a nice page on the site that gives them information patients can use to stay safe and keep family members safe.” 

FirstHealth Convenient Care offers treatment for urgent, but non-life threatening illnesses and injuries. If patients require more than preventative care from a primary doctor, but do not warrant an emergency room visit, FirstHealth Convenient Care helps fill the gap.

Convenient Care locations:

FirstHealth Convenient Care-Asheboro

208 W. Salisbury Street

Asheboro, NC 27203

(336) 523-0040

Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FirstHealth Convenient Care-Hamlet

1021 W. Hamlet Avenue

Hamlet, NC 28345

(Located across from Richmond Community College)

(910) 417-4100

Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FirstHealth Convenient Care-Pinehurst

150 Ivey Lane

Pinehurst, NC 28374

(Located in the Harris Teeter shopping center)

(910) 215-5200

Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FirstHealth Convenient Care-Raeford

4565 Fayetteville Road

Raeford, NC 28376

(Located in the Walmart Shopping Center)

(910) 878-5100

Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FirstHealth Convenient Care-Sanford-Lee Campus

2919 Beechtree Drive

Sanford, NC 27330

(919) 897-2260

Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FirstHealth Convenient Care-Sanford-Tramway

1602 Westover Drive

Sanford, NC 27330

(Located near Davison’s Steaks)

(919) 897-2250

Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

FirstHealth Convenient Care-Whispering Pines

7473-C Hwy 22

Whispering Pines, NC 28327

(Located in the Food Lion Shopping Center)

(910) 215-5100

Open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Courtesy photo/Contributed.

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