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Retail Clinics Get High Marks in Study

Posted Sep 17 2009 4:40pm

Is using one of those walk-in-clinics like at a store the same as going to a doctor’s office or a hospital?  According to recent research by the Rand Corp., the quality of the care you get is similar or better, but you’ll likely end up paying less at the retail clinic.  Much less if your other choice was the emergency room (ER). CLINICStock_000001010593Small

The study looked at more than 2000 patient visits from members of a Minnesota health plan that paid for patient visits to such clinics for more than five years.  They analyzed how retail clinic patients were treated for: ear infections, sore throats or urinary tract infections.  That information was then compared to data about patients treated for the same problems, but at doctors’ offices, ERs and urgent care centers.

“The costs of care in retail clinics were 30 to 40 percent lower than in physician offices and urgent care centers and 80 percent lower than in emergency departments,” the study found. Ouch.  That’s a lot of dollars.

Meanwhile, the quality scores retail clinics received: “Were equal to or higher than those of other care settings,” according to the study.

CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens are among the companies now running retail clinics.  These new “convenience” medical clinics have been attacked by medical associations around concerns that they might provide poor care.  Apparently, that worry isn’t supported by the data.

Because they are being watched so closely and judged, the staff at these clinics might even be especially cautious. That’s just a theory.

Having all your care at one spot is usually the best idea, as well as forging a good relationship with your doctor. But retail clinics seem offer a valuable option to people who can’t afford the ideal.

For more, see this Time story.

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