Retail Clinics An Alternative for Basic Healthcare

09/10/2009 - News

Retail Clinics An Alternative for Basic Healthcare

By: June Chen, MD


Retail clinics, healthcare clinics in retail stores such as grocery stores and pharmacies, are becoming increasingly popular in many regions of the United States. However, the cost, quality, and delivery of preventive care provided by these retail clinics are not well-studied. In the September 1, 2009 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers report that retail clinics provide less costly treatment for some common illness, with no apparent adverse effect on quality of care.  

Researchers from RAND Health in Santa Monica, California and their colleagues studied claims data from 2100 episodes of ear infection, sore throat, and urinary tract infection that were treated first in retail clinics and compared these with episodes of the same illnesses which were first treated in doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, or emergency departments. They found that the overall costs of care for these three common illnesses initiated at retail clinics were significantly lower than those of similar episodes initiated at other healthcare settings. The costs of prescriptions and the quality of care were similar among retail clinics, doctors’ offices, and urgent care centers. Emergency department care had higher prescription costs and significantly lower quality scores.
Based on the findings of this study, retail clinics seems to offer an affordable alternative to more traditional healthcare settings without sacrificing quality of care or delivery of preventive care, at least for ear infections, sore throats, and urinary tract infections. While retail clinics cannot replace doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, or emergency departments for more serious medical conditions, they may become increasingly attractive as an option for routine medical care.


Ann Intern Med. 2009;151;321-328.

Created on: 09/10/2009
Reviewed on: 09/10/2009

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