Retail clinics offer comparable care

October 23, 2009

Retail health clinics provide care for routine illnesses at a lower cost and similar quality as offered in physician offices, urgent care centers or emergency departments, according to a new study.

Retail health clinics, typically found in a drug store chain, provide care for routine illnesses at a lower cost and similar quality as offered in physician offices, urgent care centers or emergency departments, according to a study by the RAND Corp. released in September.

Researchers examined the experiences of 2,100 patients treated at retail clinics in Minnesota during 2005 and 2006 for middle ear infections, sore throats or urinary tract infections, according to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Those patients were compared to similar patients treated for the same ailments in physician offices, urgent care centers or hospital emergency departments.

The quality of medical care was judged using 14 indicators of quality and whether patients received seven preventive care services during the initial visit, or in the next three months. Quality scores for retail clinics were equal to or higher than those in other care settings, with the exception that a smaller proportion of high-risk patients received a urine culture at retail clinics, according to the study.