How Retail Clinics Are Changing Healthcare Delivery

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A new type of healthcare provider is showing up in malls, drugstores and even in some big box retail stores, and it is the retail clinic. These clinics offer patients affordable, lower-cost care for common health problems to help them receive treatment that they might otherwise have to forego because of cost or lack of insurance. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and in this time of healthcare reform, retail clinics are likely going to grow in popularity and number.

A Growing Trend

According to A&M Healthcare Industry group, retail clinics are an emerging trend that will continue to grow as the number of primary care physicians and healthcare managers has not kept pace with the number of new patients as required through the Affordable Care Act. Demand for these clinics has increased in places such as Michigan where 900,000 new patients entered the healthcare system in 2013, either through private insurance or through Medicaid. In fact, Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Convenient Care Association, expects retail clinics to double within the next five years.

Lower Cost for Managed Care

What makes these retail clinics so popular? Much has to do with the mandate for health coverage. With the large numbers of insured patients, a great number of people are unable to obtain a primary care physician and must rely on Urgent Care and retail clinics to handle many of their problems. According to Modern Health, somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of those who visit a retail clinic do not have insurance. Other patients have high-deductible insurance, which makes going to an Emergency Department or a physician’s office prohibitively expensive. Retail clinics typically charge 80 percent less than emergency rooms and 40 percent less than a physician’s office. It’s easy to see why many opt for the lower costs of these clinics.

Type of Care Patients Receive

People might think that retail clinics would not have an exceptional level of care, but that is not the case. These retail clinics are staffed by either physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners who are trained to handle minor problems. The function of the retail facilities, which are often housed in drugstores or big box stores, is to handle minor complaints, often off-hours, such as colds, sore throat, bladder infections, pink eye, and vaccinations for flu, pneumonia and shingles. They aren’t equipped to handle problems that need X-rays, such as broken bones, which is something an urgent care or hospital must handle. However, physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners will refer patients to the hospital, if needed. They will also send a report detailing the care the patient received to his or her primary care physician.

As the medical industry continues to work toward reducing costs while providing excellent care, retail clinics will continue to grow. To learn more about how the future of healthcare is constantly being reshaped, visit the University of Southern California Online.