A paper in the November issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine discussed the emergence of retail medical clinics, possibly as another option for primary health care and a way to reduce unnecessary emergency department visits.
Retail clinics, located in stores such as Wal-Mart, provide medical treatment to nonemergency patients, often at prices lower than those charged by hospital EDs or physician practices. Nearly 200 retail clinics have been created, with plans for more than 1,000 by the end of the year and twice as many next year, the paper states.
A 2005 Harris Interactive poll of 2,500 respondents found that:
- 78% of consumers believed the clinics could be a convenient, quick option for basic medical treatment;
- 75% were concerned over the quality of medical treatment at a retail clinic; and
- Of the 7% of respondents who had visited a clinic, 90% said they were satisfied with their visit.
According to the paper, some ED physicians credit developers of retail clinics for developing the model but say retail clinics "appear to be largely a sequel to another trend of two decades ago -- urgent care clinics" (Flynn, Annals of Emergency Medicine, November 2006). 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.