Retail Clinics Save 32% vs. MDs & Urgent Care (81% vs. Emergency Depts.), With Higher Quality Care
US News Health Day -- Walk-in retail clinics staffed by nurse practitioners provide high-quality care for routine illnesses, a new study has found.
Writing in the Sept. 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, study author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra said that retail clinics -- which are typically staffed by nurse practitioners and found in drug stores and other retail chain stores such as Target and Wal-Mart -- provide a good standard of care for sore throat, ear infections and urinary tract infections. Mehrotra is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a policy analyst at Rand Health.
"I'm interested in how we deliver new forms of health care," said Mehrotra, who compared data from retail clinics, doctors' offices, urgent care centers and hospital emergency departments. "There's been a lot of discussion about the quality and effectiveness of these clinics; I wanted to find out more. From the patients' perspective, their appeal is twofold. They're convenient and they provide significant cost savings."
Retail clinics have become increasingly widespread in recent years. One such operation is CVS's MinuteClinic, the focus of Mehrotra's research. MinuteClinic staffers treat minor illnesses and injuries, and provide vaccinations and various health and wellness services. Customers can walk in without an appointment, and the clinics are open seven days a week. Most visits take no more than 15 minutes, and costs vary from $30 to $110, according to the MinuteClinic Web site.
According to Mehrotra, one-third of Americans live within a 10-minute drive of a retail clinic, and more than 6,000 of these clinics are expected to open across the United States within five years. Surveys of patients who received care at retails clinics have been positive, he added.
From the results section of the full article:
Overall costs of care for episodes initiated at retail clinics were substantially lower than those of matched episodes initiated at physician offices, urgent care centers, and emergency departments ($110 vs. $166, $156, and $570, respectively. Aggregate quality scores were similar in retail clinics, physician offices, and urgent care centers (63.6%, 61.0%, and 62.6%).
MP: In other words, for some routine health care, retail clinic costs are 81% below emergency rooms, and about 32% below physician offices and urgent care centers, with slightly higher quality scores than physician offices and urgent care centers.
Could Obama and all members of Congress receive copies of this study?
Update from Time Magazine, "Drive-Thru Medical: Retail Health Clinics' Good Marks":
There are roughly 1,000 clinics now operating in the U.S., offering acute care for such routine problems as throat infections and earaches as well as providing diabetes and cholesterol screenings, routine checkups and vaccinations. The fees are low — and conspicuously posted; nearly all of the clinics treat both the insured and uninsured, and there is little or no waiting time. With 50 million Americans lacking health insurance and family budgets collapsing under the weight of medical costs, what's not to like about the clinics?