Study: Retail clinics offer quality care for standard illnesses

It appears that retail clinics are succeeding at their primary purpose--providing high-quality care for life's everyday pains--according to a new study appearing in a medical journal. The study touches on an important issue, given that at this point in the growth of the industry, one-third of Americans live within a 10-minute drive of a clinic.

The study, which appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed information from insurance claims for 2,100 Minnesotans filed between 2005 and 2006. The authors focused on three diagnoses--sore throats, ear infections and urinary infections--as they accounted for 40 percent of the clinics' cases.

After analyzing the care given with varied statistical tools, researchers concluded that retail clinics provided good care for these conditions, consistent with standard medical guidelines for these illnesses. That includes frequency and type of labs performed, as well as drugs prescribed.

The prescribing pattern finding seemingly shoots down one argument of critics, who contend that placing the clinics in pharmacies that own them will boost the rate of needless prescriptions.

On the other hand, it's also worth noting that Minnesota is one of the most mature retail clinic markets. It would be interesting to see what variances might turn up in regions where the clinics were newer.

To learn more about the study:
- read this HealthDay News piece