Use of retail clinics booming

A new study by the Rand Corp. concludes that retail clinics located in pharmacies are growing in popularity and are beginning to provide significant preventive care components to elderly patients, Drug Store News reported.

Rand said visits to retail clinics quadrupled between 2007 and 2009, according to the article, reaching nearly 6 million. Among those who are over the age of 65, their proportion of visits grew from 8 percent to 19 percent during that period, Drug Store News reported.

Nearly half of the visits occurred on the weekends or at other times when visiting a physician's office is inconvenient, according to Drug Store News.

Retail clinics received a significant profile boost last month, when the UCLA Healthcare System inked a deal with MinuteClinics in Southern California to help promote chronic disease management and share electronic health records, the Los Angeles Times reported.

However, the use of retail clinics compared to physician offices and traditional outpatient clinics remains quite low.

"The rapid growth of retail clinics makes it clear that they are meeting a patient need. Convenience and after-hours accessibility are possible drivers of this growth. However, retail clinics make up a small share of overall visits in the outpatient setting, which include 117 million visits to emergency departments and 577 million visits to physician offices annually," reported Health Affairs, which published the Rand study.

But the study's researchers do say the clinics are serving an important role.

"Retail medical clinics continue to grow rapidly and attract new segments of users," study lead author Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a Rand researcher, said in an announcement. "They remain just a small part of outpatient medical care, but appear to have tapped into patients' needs."

Sixty percent of those people who have been patronizing clinics said they did not have a relationship with a primary care physician, Drug Store News reported.

To learn more:
- read the Drugstore News article
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- read the Health Affairs study
- read the Rand announcement