Patients are pleased with care, cost at retail clinics

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U.S. adults who have used health clinics in a pharmacy or retail chain are generally pleased, as almost all are very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of the care (90 percent), cost (86 percent) and staff qualifications (88 percent), according to the latest Interactive healthcare study.

According to the American Public Health Association, there were approximately 700 retail-based healthcare clinics operating in the United States as of December 2007. The clinics, also known as convenience care clinics, are typically found in stores such as Walgreens, Target and Wal-Mart, and are usually staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The biggest driver of satisfaction appears to be convenience, with 73 percent very satisfied and another 20 percent somewhat satisfied with the convenience of the clinics, which continue to be a destination for comparatively routine services like vaccinations and care of respiratory infections. While public acceptance is increasing, they are not particularly appealing for attention to more serious conditions, according to the study.

The study’s results of the online survey of 4,937 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Interactive between May 2 and 6, for the Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition include:

  • The use of retail health clinics has remained consistent over the past few years, with 7 percent of U.S. households in 2005, five percent in 2007 and 7 percent in 2008;
  • 30 percent of patients who use retail-based healthcare clinics do not have a primary care provider;
  • U.S. adults believe retail-based healthcare clinics can provide low-cost basic services to people who cannot afford care (78 percent) and to anyone at times when doctors’ offices are closed (81 percent);
  • Although an increasing number say they are satisfied with staff qualifications, the majority is worried about the qualifications of the staff (65 percent) and that serious medical problems might not be accurately diagnosed (65 percent).

“Advocates believe retail-based clinics fill a gap in healthcare access for our nation of more than 40 million uninsured. On the other hand, organizations such as the American Medical Association are concerned that the quality of care could suffer, and that these clinics would not be held to the same standards as medical offices,” said Richard Millard, group president at Harris.