For Routine Cases, Retail Clinics Can Deliver, New Research Indicates
Retail walk-in clinics at stores such as CVS and Wal-Mart are just as good at treating routine illnesses as physicians' offices, hospital emergency departments and urgent care clinics, and they are much less costly, according to a new RAND study published in this month's Annals of Internal Medicine, the Washington Post reports.
Researchers analyzed 2,100 Minnesota patients who received treatment at retail clinics and compared them with those who received treatment for similar conditions elsewhere. They found that the clinics offered care that was as good as the more established treatment options.
The cost of care at a clinic was 30% to 40% lower than that of a physician's office or urgent care center, and 80% lower than a hospital ED, according to the study.
"Located in retail stores, such as pharmacy, discount or grocery chains, these clinics require no appointments, are open on weekends and evenings, report little waiting time, and offer services limited to immunizations and treatment of minor acute conditions," the study stated. The clinics typically are staffed by physician assistants and nurse practitioners, not doctors, and tend to "serve a population that is younger, more likely to be uninsured, and less likely to have a primary care physician."
Physicians groups such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have questioned the quality of care at retail clinics, saying they have an incentive to over-prescribe because they are owned by pharmacy chains. In addition, the groups have said that the walk-in clinics might not provide adequate follow-up care.The California HealthCare Foundation primarily funded the study (Shapiro, Washington Post, 9/15). CHCF publishes California Healthline. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.