What retail clinics are doing right

Retail clinics may offer a narrow scope of services, but there is no question their appeal is wide. The reasons the trend continues to expand so rapidly, according to a post from NPR, come down to convenience, efficiency and affordability.

Indeed, CVS Caremark announced earlier this month that it plans to nearly double its number of MinuteClinic locations by 2016 from 570 to about 1,000. And with shortages in primary care expected to worsen, experts such as Tom Charland, CEO of walk-in medicine consultancy Merchant Medicine, expect the clinics to have no trouble drumming up more business.

It also makes sense for employers and health plans to steer individuals to the retail side when appropriate, as research has shown the model to be compellingly cost efficient. According to a 2009 study by the Rand Corp., the cost of treatment for sore throat, ear infection and urinary tract infection was at least 30 percent lower at a walk-in retail clinic than in other settings, with the quality of care just as good.

Even Physicians Practice Assistant Managing Editor Erica Sprey acknowledged in a recent blog post that traditional practices could benefit from emulating some walk-in qualities. In particular, Sprey, who has worked in healthcare settings, said she was impressed by a recent walk-in's cleanliness and efficiency in handling patient intake, prescription list, insurance information and payment all by one person. She added that care-coordination was equally smooth, as she was given the option of having a chart note describing the visit sent directly to her primary care physician.

"My treatment was efficient, coordinated and completed with a minimum of extraneous steps or work," Sprey wrote. "Even though an urgent-care center like this is limited in focus and therefore better able to standardize procedures, processes and staff roles, there is power in simplicity and forethought."

To learn more:
- see the post from NPR
- read the post from Physicians Practice