Retail health clinics are places where people can get walk-in medical treatment, instead of calling ahead and waiting for an appointment. They tend to be located in existing retail outlets, such as pharmacies, grocery stores and other retail locations like Walmart and Target. If you’re wondering what the pros and cons of retail health clinics are, read on!
Retail health clinics are ideal for acute health issues that are simple to diagnose and treat, such as strep throat, sinus infections, ear infections, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, ringworm, flu shots, immunizations, and even school and camp physicals. Some clinics offer preventive health screenings, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and skin cancer analysis.
Over time, most clinics will probably begin to add some aspects of chronic care management, such as intravenous therapy and medical device data downloads.
Convenience – One of the biggest advantages that retail health clinics offer is the ability to walk in without an appointment and get medical treatment. Their hours are typically very convenient as well since most are open on evenings and weekends. It’s also ideal for people who are traveling because they can walk into any retail health clinic in any state and be treated.
Price Transparency – Retail health clinics offer a menu of services that have set prices, so you know what you will be charged before you are even treated. Plus, their services are covered by health insurance just like your physician’s office.
Lower Cost – In most cases, you will pay less when you go to a retail health clinic than you would in the ER or an urgent care center. They are able to keep costs down because of the limited services they offer and by using a small amount of retail space and medical equipment.
Appointment Availability – With the number of primary care physicians shrinking, the availability of appointments has decreased dramatically, making retail health clinics that much more beneficial.
Limited Services – Retail health clinics are limited in what they can treat. They cannot treat sprains, fractures, or anything requiring an X-ray because they do not have X-ray machines. They are also not for people with multiple chronic conditions or medications.
Decreased Follow Up Rates – People who are treated at a retail health clinic are less likely to follow up with their primary care physician, putting them at risk for not fully recovering from their condition.
Record Keeping & Continuity – While most retail health clinics do utilize electronic records and they do send health records to the patient’s primary care physician, incompatible electronic record systems often render the data unusable. This often makes continuity fall on the patient. Always get a print out of your treatment report upon leaving the clinic and bring it to your doctor so that he or she has all of your records.
Not Typically Treated by an MD – Retail health clinics are mostly staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. While they must follow specific care guidelines and keep detailed records on the care they provide, sometimes it is best to see a physician instead.
Short Consultations & Lowered Relationship With Primary Care Physician – Consultations in a retail health clinic are short (no more than 15 minutes). This isn’t that different from the consultation times of most primary care physicians, but it does keep people from being able to build a good relationship with their physician.
All in all, retail health clinics provide the average, healthy person with a convenient way to get care for minor, acute conditions. We will start seeing more and more of these clinics, and over time, they are likely to enhance their services.
Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net – David Castillo Dominici