RAND study finds retail health clinics attract patients with no regular provider

NEW YORK A recently released study by nonprofit research organization RAND Corp. found that many retail-based clinic patients do not have a regular health care provider, which is further evidence as to the important role that retail-based clinics play in today’s healthcare system.

“These clinics appear to attract patients who are not routine users of the current health care system,” stated lead author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a research at RAND. “For these patients, the convenience offered by retail clinics may be more important than the continuity provided by a personal physician.”

The study, published in the September/October issue of the journal Health Affairs, analyzed the details of more than 1.3 million visits to retail clinics between 2000 and 2007. The data was obtained from eight retail clinic operators that accounted for three-quarters of the clinics in operation as of July 2007.

Responding to the study, Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association, issued a statement that read, “Collectively, the data reported by RAND Health support the Convenient Care Association’s assertions that this model of care provides consumers with easier access to high quality care, particularly for those without insurance. Considering the percentage of patients with no PCP (personal care physician) or otherwise compromised access to care, CCCs (convenient care clinics) offer these individuals a viable and accessible option. An extension to primary care, CCCs have provided treatment of common ailments, physical exams, health screenings, vaccinations, and preventive care services to more than 3.5 million people.”

The CCA is a national non-profit organization comprised of leaders of the convenient care industry. CCA members represent more than 95 percent of the industry and operate more than 950 CCCs in 28 states.

Among the findings of the RAND study:

  • Patients aged 18 to 44 accounted for 43 percent of the people visiting retail clinics, compared with 23 percent for primary care physician offices. Of those patients at retail clinics, 61.3 percent said they did not have a primary care physician.
  • Patients visiting retail clinics when they first opened were likely to pay the cost out of their own pocket, but most patients are now using insurance to cover the cost. The percentage of retail office visits paid for out-of-pocket dropped from 100 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2007.
  • About 90 percent of the visits to retail clinics were for 10 acute conditions and preventative care: upper respiratory infections, sinusitis, bronchitis, sore throat, immunizations, inner ear infections, swimmers ear, conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections, and either a screening test or a blood test. The same conditions accounted for 18 percent of visits to primary care physician offices and 12 percent of emergency room visits.

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