Retail clinics, or convenient care clinics, have been a recent development over the past few years, booming around the country in number. Staffed by nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, and sometimes actual physicians, these walk-in clinics are located in retail stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies. By treating minor illnesses that are uncomplicated and offering preventive care services, they have grown rapidly as source of quick, easily accessible minor medical attention.
At the beginning of 2012, 1,355 such clinics were in operation throughout the U.S. Most are open seven days a week, twelve hours a day Monday through Friday and eight hours on the weekend. The growth of these clinics makes many contemplate how they fit into the health care system. Though it clearly substitutes a visit to the doctor, these clinics claim they are making up for a primary care shortage.
Advantages of Convenient Care
The cost may also make it more appealing, or threatening to the health care industry, as a 2009 study by Rand Corp for three common services (sore throat, urinary tract infection, and ear infection) showed that walk-in clinic visits are at least 30 percent less than in other settings. According to the study, a retail clinic visit averaged about $110 including follow-up care. The same services were estimated to be a $156 at a doctor’s office, $166 at an urgent care facility, and $570 at an emergency room, with little difference noted in the quality of care.
Though the clinic have been opening in droves, many have also closed. Like all retail, necessity depends on the location. These centers may not pose a huge competitive threat to the services of doctors and hospitals, and they do fill a gap in many areas of the country where doctors are not as accessible as a Walmart or Target.
Retail Clinics and Health Insurance
A benefit of these clinics is that they accept most health insurance plans. MinuteClinic, the CVS Caremark division of health care clinics, is by far the largest convenient care clinic in the nation. Available in 24 states and the District of Columbia, this particular walk-in service has been popping up everywhere.
Though your plan should indicate whether or not it covers MinuteClinic or other convenient care visits, it is best to call your insurer prior to your walk-in visit. In order to clarify the cost and payment system you need to follow according to your health insurance, verification is necessary. Make sure to mention the specific services which you are seeking, and find out if the service is covered – by a copayment, coinsurance, or if applicable to your deductible.
Another benefit is that though it will likely be more expensive, you can still receive services if your insurance does not cover the clinic. MinuteClinic and other common clinics are included in the provider network for many major health insurance companies, however.
The following categories of care are offered through most convenient care clinics.
- Minor illness exams
- Minor injury exams
- Labs and tests
- Health condition management
- Physical and wellness exams
- Skin condition exams