RAND: Use of Retail Clinics Soars

More than one in four people with private health insurance visited a retail medical clinic over a three year period (2007 – 2009) and the total number of visit grew tenfold over the period. Sarah Kliff (Ezra Klein blog) writes:

One disappointing finding in the RAND study had to do with patients of retail clinics in federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas, places the government deems to have too few medical providers. There has been some hope that, with retail giants like CVS and Walmart being more ubiquitous than doctor’s offices, they could help bridge that gap in medical care. The study found no association, however, between primary care physician availability and retail clinic use.

Yet this problem might well be solved if Medicare adopts the advice given by Tom Saving and yours truly and pays market rates for seniors. Similar advice should be followed by Medicaid. See our previous post and additional links.

The study was published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

Comments (8)

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  1. Brian says:

    I will be interesting to see, some years down the road, what the skill level is of health professionals working at these retail clinics as compared to primary care physician offices.
    Will the quality of care be less?

  2. Ken says:

    I agree with you. These are important innovations.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    Research has shown that retail clinics tend to be located in areas where affluent consumers live rather than in low-income areas where there are greater numbers of uninsured live. One problem is that many retail clinics don’t want to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs because of low reimbursements and regulatory hassles.

  4. Greg says:

    I like the proposals you and Saving made.

  5. Arnie Ree says:

    I love retail clinics. While not replacing my primary doc, they’re great for emergencies and after hours care. They’re cheaper than by physician and certainly faster.

  6. Virginia says:

    As retail clinics become more popular, you would except to see more catering to lower income patients. Regardless of practitioner skill level, you would hope to see an increase in overall health since preventative health would become more mainstream.

  7. Linda Gorman says:

    Federally designated health professional shortage areas seem founded on the assumption that people have no access to the internal combustion engine. For example, big chunks of metro Denver, a regional health center, are listed as professional shortage areas.

    Retail clinics tend to be located in areas where people congregate. Why would one expect them to reduce shortages in federally defined geographic areas that ignore the effects of both the automobile and public transportation?

  8. Civis Isus says:

    “More than one in four people with private health insurance visited a retail medical clinic over a three year period (2007 – 2009)”

    Fact check much? We’re retail clinics fans, but this assertion is ludicrous on its face. Yet another reason to give glancing attention, at best, to the most flamboyantly coiffed talking head in the health policy arena.