If you live near a large pharmacy or retail chain like Walgreens, CVS, or Target – and chances are you do – then you may want to inquire into whether they contain a retail health clinic. Also referred to as walk-in clinics, convenient care clinics, and even nurse-in-a-box clinics, these alternatives to the doctor’s office, urgent care center, and emergency room could save you time and money when it comes to your health.
These locations aren’t where you’d go for ongoing treatment, or for care related to serious or chronic conditions. Rather, they’re staffed by nurse practitioners (NP’s) or physician assistants who are highly trained to treat common illnesses and injuries, like colds, flus, allergies, pink eye, sprains and strains, as well as provide preventative care like health screenings, vaccinations, and physical exams.
If there isn’t a retail health clinic in your neighborhood yet, chances are there will be in the near future, due to the growing need for more accessible and affordable health care. And if you’re not yet convinced to try one out, here are 5 reasons why retail health clinics are worth a look:
- Quality care. According to the Convenient Care Association (CCA), the national trade association of retail clinics, the board certified physician assistants and nurse practitioners (NPs) who staff retail clinics use evidence-based protocols that adhere to established clinical practice guidelines and regulations.
- Lower cost. A 2009 study comparing the cost of treating common illnesses in different settings found retail clinics to be at least 30 percent cheaper than physicians’ offices, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms, with the quality of care being at least as good.
- Transparent pricing. While most insurers accept these clinics as in-network visits and pay the remainder of the cost after the co-pay, even uninsured patients are charged reasonable amounts that they’re informed of upfront. The average cost for an uninsured visit at CVS’s MinuteClinic, the largest retail health clinic operator, is $79.
- Faster care. According to the CCA, most retail clinics are open seven days a week with extended weekday hours. In addition, appointments are not required and visits generally take 15-20 minutes. This accessibility will become particularly important as the healthcare system is flooded with new patients when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.
- Coordinated care. All patients are given a hard copy of the medical record from their visit to the clinic and, if the patient allows it, the clinic will fax the patient’s record to their primary care physician. Retail clinics are also working to integrate with local health systems in order to make the coordinated care even more seamless.
Of course, it’s still advisable to have a primary care physician (PCP) who keeps records of your entire medical history and can work in conjunction with these retail clinics. If you aren’t currently under the care of a PCP, find one with the qualities of care that you value most with the Vitals Doctor Finder.
Sources: kaiserhealthnews.org, prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com, wikipedia.org, ccaclinics.org