In this post, we continue to summarize key findings from a December report by the Commonwealth Fund on the status of retail clinics in the US. An earlier post on the subject appears directly below.
The most common reason (48%) for visiting a retail clinic between 2006 and 2008 was for diagnosis and treatment of a new symptom or illness. Childhood ailments such as earache, sore throats and upper respiratory infections topped the list.
About half as many (23%) retail clinic visitors needed a vaccination and 14% visited the facility to obtain a physical exam required for school, camp or employment.
When asked why they visited a retail clinic over a traditional care setting, 64% of respondents said the clinic’s lengthy hours of operation were a major factor. Roughly the same percentage indicated that the location was more convenient. The ability to walk-in without an appointment was cited by 53%.
Just under half the visitors to retail clinics cited low costs as a principal reason for choosing the venue, while a third indicated they had no other source of care.
It appears that the brief period of unbridled growth in the number of retail clinics has ended. In the first 5 months of 2008 for example, 70 clinics in 15 states were shut down, and the nation’s largest clinic operator, MinuteClinic, announced it would pare back its expansion plans.
That may be so, but the expanding insurance coverage for services provided at retail clinics and rising problems accessing care at traditional venues assure that these convenient providers won’t be disappearing anytime soon.