Okay, show of hands, how many people have received their flu shot this year? Where did you go? If you are like me and most Americans these days you probably didn’t want schedule an appointment with your doctor. You most likely needed a few things at your local grocery store, or needed to pick up extra Halloween candy at Wal-Mart or Target and ended up in their retail health clinic line on your way to the checkout line.
Retail health clinics are popping up everywhere. You can barely go into any drugstore or supermarket without seeing one. The sudden burst of these walk in clinics comes from the fact that more and more healthcare needs are being driven by consumers and these days, when it comes to healthcare, consumers want what they want, when they want it.
Impact on Triple Aim
Healthcare consumers are looking for affordable, accessible and quality care without having to wait hours, days, or even weeks for basic primary healthcare services1. Retail and pharmacy-based care clinics provide just that.
Improved Experience through Access:
Conveniently located in retail locations, such as pharmacies and drugstores, supermarkets, big box retailers, and other high-traffic retail settings with pharmacies, these clinics have provided convenient and accessible primary care to more than 20 million people nationwide1. These clinics are typically open 7 days a week, with extended hours, appointments generally only last 20 minutes and there are little to no wait times. If you do have to wait, most provide a restaurant-style pager so people can walk around the store while they wait2.
Good UX Means Good Business
In a world where technology is rapidly advancing and user expectations are rising, it’s no longer enough to have an average user experience; to delight your users and surpass your competition you must strive for the exceptional.
Reducing Cost through Affordable Care:
For about $50 patients can obtain a wide range of basic healthcare services and treat minor medical issues. The Rand Corporation compared costs for treating illnesses at retail clinics and found they cost about 30 percent less than physicians’ offices3. In addition, most clinics accept a patient’s health insurance and for the uninsured, some data suggest that the clinics can offer basic preventive and acute care at prices lower than those incurred in the ER or urgent care clinics4. Consumers aren’t the only ones taking a closer look at retail clinics, health insurance companies are enthusiastic about these clinics because they are convenient for patients and cheaper to cover than a visit to the doctor’s office or urgent care5. Some insurance companies even provide incentives, such as waiving copays, to those that chose to go to one of these retail health clinics.
Improved Health through Quality Care:
Most retail health clinics are staffed by nationally certified nurse practitioners or physician assistants, and they receive physician oversight through chart review, clinical protocol development and physician availability for consultation6, though some do have medical doctors that provide the actual care. The staff adheres to national standards, protocols and evidence based medicine to guide their decision making. The retail clinics have connected electronic health record systems across the country, and many have plans to connect to a hospital and eventually a hospital- or state-based health information exchange to increase the necessary sharing of patient information to improve quality and efficiency of care. Patients of these clinics are provided patient education and appropriate discharge instructions. These clinics allow patients to make informed decisions about their health through transparency by making readily available prices of their services and discussing various treatment options. It seems as though patients who have used retail clinics provide a high overall satisfaction with cost (86% satisfaction), convenience (93%), having qualified staff to provide care (88%) and quality of care (90%).2
The trade-off for convenience may be piecemeal services that lack the advantages of the kind of continuous care that comes with a doctor-patient relationship that’s been cultivated over time5. William E. Kobler, M.D., chair, Illinois State Medical Society board of trustees concern is that “while these clinics claim they will see only minor illnesses, doctors often use this type of visit for diagnosis, treatment and counseling regarding other medical problems6.” Consumers are going to use retail health clinics because they are convenient, but they should be aware of these clinics’ limitations and use them only to supplement care from their regular primary care physician5. Becky Ham from the Center for Advancing Health (CFAH) provides a nice pro and con list in regard to retail health clinics7:
|Guaranteed appointment times||Short consultation may not leave much time to explain health history, details of current complaint|
|Short consultations — most less than 15 minutes||May detract from the development of a “medical home” and relationship with primary care doctor|
|Convenient locations and hours||Limited set of conditions treated — care for chronic conditions and major ailments not available|
|Up-front pricing||May miss important follow-up care required for certain conditions, such as infections|
|Lower prices than ER or urgent care||Some insurance companies waive co-pay at clinics — which could force some patients to choose clinics when they would prefer to see their primary care doctor|
|Cash or insurance accepted||Oversight of clinics varies from state to state|
|Electronic health record available at all locations||Usually will not be treated by an M.D.|
|Some studies suggest clinics more likely to practice evidence-based medicine|
Our healthcare delivery system is constantly changing and more and more consumers are demanding access to quality and cost efficient care. As with everything there advantages and disadvantages, however, at present, retail health clinics seem to be a viable option to begin to address these demands.
If I were you, I would start adding healthcare to your shopping list!
What do you think about retail health clinics? Are they convenient or concerning?
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