Retail health clinics providing more health services for more people especially older patients

Looks like every drug store and health and beauty aid store in Manhattan and in many of the boroughs and suburbs are offering consumers flu shots. Prices can range from $14.95 to $29. Convenience, acceptance of insurance coverage, and ability to limit visiting their local healthcare professional has resulted in the growth of retail based health clinics.

In a new study from the Rand Corp reported that retail based health clinics are attracting older patients and delivering more preventive care, particularly flu shots and other vaccinations.

Visits to retail medical clinics increased four-fold from 2007 to 2009, with the proportion of patients older than 65 years old growing from 8% to 19% of all visits during the period.

"Health Affairs" magazine reported that more than 44% of visits to the clinics occurred on the weekend or other hours when physician offices typically are closing, suggesting retail clinics meet a need for convenient care.

A researcher and at Rand and an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said, "Retail medical clinics continue to grow rapidly and attract new segments of users. They remain just a small part of outpatient medical care, but appear to have tapped into patients needs."

Today there are three primary varieties of walk-in medicine, namely retail, urgent care and primary care clinics. Retail clinics are beginning to do chronic disease management; urgent care clinics are starting to act as medical homes; employers are opening worksite clinics with full primary and specialty care services.  

Retail clinics are medical clinics typically located within retail stores such as grocery stores or pharmacies. Their focus is on patient convenience and they are open on evenings and weekends on a walk-in basis. Retail health clinics treat common ailments and offer routine vaccinations. They are cheaper than a typical visit to the doctor's office or emergency room and do not require an appointment. This helps increase accessibility to primary health care at lower cost. Compared to an emergency department or physician's office, care at retail clinics is less costly. Retail clinics may even avert costly non-emergent emergency department visits, though there is not yet any evidence to support this possibility.  

Nearly all clinics accept some form of private insurance and many accept public insurance options. To encourage enrollees to visit retail clinics, some health plans have reduced or waived copayments for retail clinic visits. For patients that pay out of pocket for care, prices are clearly posted so that patients know the costs of care prior to the visit.

Demand for primary health care is expected to sharply increase when 32 million newly insured Americans will obtain health insurance from 2014 through health-care reforms.

"The Street" reported in August, CVS Caremark, the U.S.'s second-largest drug retailer, has expanded its retail health-care clinic footprint to 650 in the last five years and plans to add another 350 by 2016.

Through MinuteClinics at its pharmacy locations, CVS Caremark has significantly outpaced its competitors Walgreens and Wal-Mart Stores in the race to provide basic health care through retail-based walk-in medical clinics.


Posted on November 1, 2012 .