Research shows retail clinics can replace up to 1-in-4 emergency room visits

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. Up to 1-in-4 emergency room visits could take place at a retail-based health clinic or urgent care center, saving potentially $4.4 billion annually, according to new research published in the September issue of Health Affairs.

Furthermore, the research found that such retail clinics as Take Care Clinics have been shown to save patients $279 to $460 per visit compared with emergency room costs.

A second study published in Health Affairs found that 42% of the 354 million annual visits for acute care are made to patients' personal physicians.

"This research reaffirms the need for alternative sites of care to help ease the pressure of overcrowded emergency departments and long wait times that are often necessary to get an appointment with patients' primary care providers," stated Hal Rosenbluth, Walgreens SVP, president of Walgreens health-and-wellness division and co-founder of Take Care Health Systems. "The fact that $4.4 billion could be saved by utilizing options like Take Care Clinics and other retail and urgent care clinics is a wake-up call to patients, employers and health plans that money spent on health care can be better allocated to help ease the pressure on an already burdened system."

The Health Affairs article looked at data provided by retail clinics and urgent care centers in 2007 and compared it with emergency department visit data in 2006. The researchers used a list of health conditions that commonly are treated at retail clinics and urgent care facilities to determine the number of visits that could have been treated at alternative sites.

"We are playing an integral role in healthcare reform by providing an entry into the healthcare system for many Americans through both our retail clinics as well as our worksite health centers," stated Sandy Ryan, chief nurse practitioner for Take Care Health Systems. "By offering quality health care where people live and work, Take Care Health Systems is improving the lives of our patients, connecting them within the existing healthcare community and reducing the burden on the healthcare system as a whole. This trend could continue as health plans and employers explore ways to encourage patients to utilize retail clinics more frequently instead of making trips to the emergency department."

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