Results from a new study using data from 1.35 million visits to more than 300 retail health care clinics operated by eight different companies including Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens show that:
Roughly 90% of the patients came for one of 10 relatively simple treatments. The list included ear infections, upper respiratory infections, immunizations and blood pressure checks. “Most of the conditions cared for in retail clinics likely do not require the level of training of a physician,” the authors wrote. That’s important because most retail clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners.
Insurance paid for 67% of visits. That’s striking, given the fact that the clinics are often viewed as places where uninsured patients pay cash out of pocket.
Most of the patients said they didn’t have a primary care provider. One concern about the clinics is that they would lead to further fragmentation of care, by disrupting the patient-doctor relationship. “We found that 60% of patients did not report having a PCP, so for these patients there is no relationship to disrupt,” the authors write.
It’s possible that the clinics prevent some patients from going to the doctor and forming those relationships in the first place. On the other hand, some of the patients who show up at retail clinics might otherwise have gone to the emergency room.