More Americans Getting Their Medical Care At Retail Locations

A growing number of supermarkets, drugstores and other retailers are opening in-store clinics offering everything from flu shots to dental, vision and general medical care. And the people aren’t shying away from using these services.

According to a study from the folks at Rand Corp, between 2007 and 2009, the rate of visits to retail clinics, while still small, experienced a nearly tenfold growth spurt, from .3 visits for 1,000 people to 2.7 visits per 1,000.

One reason, aside from the convenience of seeing a doctor in the same building you buy your groceries, is that, per the Rand study, these retail clinics cost consumers 30-40% less than going to a doctor’s office, and 80% less expensive than going to the emergency room, which some people who lack health insurance go because they know it is unlikely they will be turned away.

“If the growth in retail clinic visits that we noted represents substitution for other sources of care, then the increase could lead to lower costs,” said the study’s lead author about what impact these clinics could have once the new health care reform laws are fully enacted. “However, if these visits represent new utilization or induced demand — in other words, patients are seeking care when they would have otherwise stayed home — then costs could increase… Answering these questions requires additional study.”

Use of retail medical clinics is rising, study says [Chicago Tribune]