Have retail clinics improved your access to healthcare?

Amy Shea, a certified nurse practitioner, works at the MinuteClinic inside the CVS in Woodbury, Dec. 23, 2014. Mark Zdechlik / MPR News

MPR News reporter Mark Zdechlik writes that high out-of-pocket costs and convenience are fueling retail clinic growth. Do you use retail clinics?

From Zdechlik’s reporting:

Retail clinics save people a lot of money, said Tine Hansen-Turton executive director of the Convenient Care Association, an industry trade group.

“Our average cost is about $75 per encounter,” she said. “That’s manageable, versus showing up in an emergency room or an urgent care.”

In those places, she said, patients likely would have to pay up to $600 in out-of-pocket costs.

Hansen-Turton said one out of four emergency room visits could have been handled in a retail clinic.

Retail clinics staffed with physician assistants or nurse practitioners are reshaping American health care, said Christopher Kerns, who tracks health care trends for the Advisory Board Company, an industry-funded research group.

“I’d say they’re changing health care delivery,” he said. “I wouldn’t say they quite revolutionized it just yet, but they certainly have the potential to do so and they seem to be in the process of doing so.”

Kerns said retail clinics are needed to help keep up with demand for health care driven, in part, by the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that people carry health insurance.

“There are more people seeking care and fewer primary care physicians to see them,” he said. “Those two forces together seem to be fueling a lot of this new demand for retail and urgent care.”

While retail clinic operators say they want to complement physician care, some national doctors’ groups have come out against them.

“My recommendation to patients is, call your doctor first,” said Robert Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Wergin, a Nebraska doctor, said people who choose retail clinics miss out on important benefits of having a doctor who knows your various health concerns.

“The downside is [the loss of] that continuous relationship-based care and then the lost opportunities to maybe address other issues because we have that relationship and I have your chart,” he said.

Today’s Question: Have Minute Clinics improved your health?

  • Pearly

    No.

  • John Dilligaf

    Improved convenience more so than access for me. I’ve only used them once for a strep test.

    But, this is the kind of solution that puts the patient (and payer) closer to the provider with less people in the middle. That’s change I can believe in. With your employer and the insurance company and the ‘Affordable’ Care Act between you and a regular physician or clinic, it’s hard to know what’s being charged, what’s covered, who has a cheaper option,etc.

  • David P.

    I have used a Minute Clinic 3 times. They saved me at least an hour each time, the caregiver took their time and was knowledgable.
    I would think these clinics take a lot of the load off of full service health care clinics, enabling them to operate more efficiently and improve the level of care they can offer.

  • James

    No.
    But on a related topic. One on MPR’s favorite topics is MNSure.
    I’m now officially a MNSure hater.
    Let’s call it what it is. A Health Insurance Reseller that is not economically viable.
    The way MPR talks about it, you would think it is delivering health insurance to the masses. Maybe 300,000 or 500,000 customers???? Nope. So far this year 31,000 customers with a hope (prayer) to reach 60,000.
    Let’s say that the average policy costs $2,000 (although of course for most of the MNSure customers, the cost is $0) $60 million of revenues this year, with the hopes of getting to $120 million. Assuming they “earn” a 10% commission, MNSure has gross margins of $6 million so far with hopes of getting to $12 million. Revenues and gross margins roughly equal to a single Home Depot store. And yet, MNSure has had federal government subsidies in the vicinity of $150 million so far, and candidly their website still sucks, especially for healthcare brokers.
    Come on MPR. Let’s do some better reporting on this thing. Candidly, it is having trivial impact and is costing us a fortune. That should be part of your reporting.

    • Yanotha Twangai

      It’s yet more evidence that the whole idea that the private market can ever be regulated or managed in such a way as to provide universal access to health care, the originally Republican idea on which Obamacare was based, was misguided from the start. If we weren’t too proud to learn from the successes of other countries, we could have had an effective single-payer system already. Now we have to wait a decade or so for Obamacare to crash and burn before we can hope for rationality to prevail.

  • PaulJ

    If I know, their phone number, where they are, when they are open, if they take my insurance, and can get me in; I like to use them.

  • Atmen

    Before getting insurance I used Target’s clinic for an apparent case of the flu and I thought the nurse well trained, intelligent and helpful. I liked their clinic a lot, and it was fast (their pharmacy was another matter entirely, keeping me there for an hour while quite sick). Grateful for it and especially the price. I might consider using them within my coverage or if out of town. I may prefer nurses to doctors for most things.