RESEARCH: Retail clinic users also had 12 percent fewer emergency department visits than their counterparts.

By The United Hospital Fund, New York, February 2015

journal of retail medicineUrgent care centers and retail clinics—collectively known as “convenient care”—are a major market-driven development in ambulatory care, presenting both potential benefits and risks for the health care system. This Fund report presents an overview of convenient care nationally, and examines the distribution of these providers in New York State and their potential impact on two special populations—the medically underserved and children. It also offers five policy options the State could consider to establish consumer and public health protections, and considers the relationship of convenient care to broader health care restructuring.

One study addressed the potential for further downstream costs by analyzing patients’
total medical costs for six months following an index visit to a retail clinic or to a sameday
acute care clinic. Although based on a small sample from a single group practice in
Minnesota, the study found that patients who visited retail clinics had lower total costs
than matched patients who visited the acute care clinic (Rohrer, Angstman, and Bartel
2009). A more recent study of adult primary care patients, also in Minnesota, found that
the odds of return visits for treatment of sinusitis were the same whether patients
received care at a retail clinic or in a regular office visit (Rohrer, Angstman, and
Garrison 2012).

Perhaps more telling, a larger study of spending patterns of CVS Caremark employees
found a significantly lower total cost of care in the year following a first visit to a retail
clinic compared to costs incurred by propensity score-matched individuals who received
care in other settings. In total, retail clinic users spent $262 less than their counterparts,
with savings stemming primarily from lower medical expenses at physicians’ offices ($77
savings) and reduced spending for hospital inpatient care ($121 savings). Retail clinic
users also had 12 percent fewer emergency department visits than their counterparts
(Sussman et al. 2013).

Here is the United Hospital Fund report on urgent care centers and separate but related retail clinics.


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