September 3, 2009

Retail clinics: Good care at lower cost

Retail medical clinics in pharmacies and stores can provide routine care at lower cost than other facilities and offer similar quality, U.S. researchers said.

The Rand Corp. compared the medical care provided in different settings for patients with middle ear infections, sore throats and urinary tract infections. The Rand researchers found no difference in the quality offered to patients visiting retail clinics, physician offices and urgent care centers, but retail clinics did slightly better than hospital emergency departments.

These findings provide more evidence that retail clinics are an innovative new way of delivering health care, lead author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a researcher at the Rand Corp., said in a statement. Retail clinics are more convenient for patients, less costly and provide care that is of equal quality as received in other medical settings.

There are almost 1,000 such clinics in the United States and about one-third of urban Americans live within a 10-minute drive of a retail medical clinic, the researchers said.

The findings are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.