Retail clinics get high marks in cost savings study

According to a new study, retail clinics are cheaper for patients than going to a primary care physician's office. The study, published in the journal Health Affairs and conducted by Dr. Lief Solberg of health plan HealthPartners, found that the theory that many patients go to a retail clinic first and then to their primary care physicians for follow up afterward does not hold up. By tracking visits of HealthPartners members to MinuteClinics, researchers found that a patient treated at the retail clinic for one of five basic illnesses was $51 cheaper on average than a patient treated at an emergency room, and $55 cheaper than a patient treated by a primary care physician. Pharmacy costs were also reportedly some what less expensive. 

What made this study different than some studies of retail care is that it looked at the total cost of an episode of illness, rather than a single visit. It found that 14.5 percent of MinuteClinic patients ended up needing follow-up visits in the study, a very comparable number to the 14.2 percent of traditional clinic patients who needed follow-up treatment.

To learn more about the study:
- read this Pioneer Press article

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