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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Oct 15 2012   11:18PM GMT

The convenience of quick visits at retail clinics

Posted by: RedaChouffani

Health care seems to be one of the few areas that we may not have quick service turnaround, in a time when we expect immediate service. I experienced one of those inconveniences this week during a family trip. My wife and I found ourselves away from our pediatrician when our youngest came down with something. The comfort of having some relief from a potential ear infection was not coming soon enough for my little one.

We looked for the nearest urgent care or retail clinic well into the evening, it became clear that it was going to be a visit to the urgent care since the clinics were already closed. After filling out paperwork (a retail clinic likely would have had our information in the system since we have visited them back home) and seeing the on call physician, we were sent home with a prescription and told that we should expect our little angel to gain her strength back in a matter of days. I began to wonder how retail clinics can possibly help with situations like these as I considered how many people have encountered the same situation. One of the health care clinics around the nation used by retailers such as Walmart called Smart Care Doc, offers immediate access to board certified physicians through teleconferencing. This provides patients with quick and easy access to a clinician.

Many parents and uninsured patients could seek these retail clinics as a quick and convenient alternative to a primary care physician (PCP) to treat non-life threatening and routine conditions.

Retail clinics offer the following benefits:

Convenience and easy access:

Large chain retailers such as Walmart, CVS, and others offer their products and services throughout the nation. Having access to that real estate would mean that clinics will be available in many communities throughout the country.

Lower cost:

Most of the retailers require copay similar to that of a standard office visit. However, after regular business hours, the copay is still considered lower than what urgent care copay is. There are still a number of retail clinics that offer lower rates and discounts for uninsured patients.

Health Information Exchange:

Most, if not all, of the existing retail clinics in the market today have EHR deployed and are cloud based. This allows the patient’s record to be available to any of the visited clinics.

Many of the services available at retail clinics are limited to what can be received from a family physician and or specialist, though they are a convenient alternative to the traditional office visit. The services being offered will continue to improve over time and as more large organizations partner with some of these models to cut cost. Patients may soon see that these one stop health shops have more to offer.

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