Retail Health/Walk-In Clinics: An Overview
A welcome trend in recent years has been the advent of retail health clinics, also known as walk-in clinics. They go by brand names such as MinuteClinic, RediHealth, and TakeCare. While they tend to be in suburban areas, they are spreading to many markets across the country. According to industry analyst Merchant Medicine, states such as Illinois and California have more than 70 such locations each, and the overall growth trend has been steady.
These locations have business models that greatly reduce the cost of delivering care. They typically lease space from large brick-and-mortar companies, like drug stores or retail stores, keeping costs low. They employ Physician Assistants to deliver the care, who work alone and do everything from treating you to printing your bill. They also limit the number of services that they treat for, so they don't have to buy expensive equipment or stock supplies that won't be used for weeks.
The cost savings can be dramatic, with services sometimes costing ½ of what they would at an urgent care, and perhaps 10% of the cost of being treated in an emergency room. MinuteClinic, for example, charges $59 for an ear infection. Being treated at an urgent care would likely cost $100 - $125, and going to an ER would almost certainly cost $150 or more, potentially much more.
For those who have high deductible health plans, no insurance, or are trying to make a plan limit go the further, these retail sites are a great way to be treated cost-effectively for common services such earache, sore throat, vaccination, or common skin conditions.
In this section, we supply links to the common retail health providers, as well as a comparison of the cost of common services performed at an ER, urgent care, and a retail health site. The links on the right will provide more detailed information.