How Retail Clinics are Changing Access to Healthcare
Written by Inbar Tropen, Business Development Manager
In the United States, many patients are unfortunately unable to secure access to primary care in traditional clinics. There are numerous contributing factors, among them uneven distribution of doctors across regions, inflexible care models, inconvenient hours, payer aversion, and lack of insurance coverage.
As a result, more and more walk-in clinics are popping up in pharmacies, grocery stores, and big box retailers across the country, offering accommodating locations and hours, undisguised pricing, and short waiting times for walk-in care. These retailers are becoming an increasingly important part of the American healthcare system, as they take on an opportunity to become convenient consumer healthcare hubs.
Retail clinics are staffed mainly by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and are often supervised by an off-site physician who may give phone consultations. Services at these clinics are usually limited in scope, with 90% of visits being for acute conditions or preventative care such as vaccinations.
Yet, the seamless integration of these clinics into consumers’ preexisting trips to the retailers, often at hours when primary care offices are closed, along with the lower cost of services than at traditional primary care providers has led “48% of retail pharmacy customers (to) have used at least one health and wellness-oriented service provided by their pharmacy this year,” a 5% increase from 2019, according to a 2020 study. Further, COVID-19 has led to an upward trend in the number of consumers who used retail clinics during the pandemic and in those who plan to use them after the pandemic.
It is also important to note that extensive research has been conducted on the quality of care at retail clinics, and the outcomes have shown that it is as high, if not higher, than at physician offices, and that protocols are complied with strictly. Plus, with more than 60% of retail clinic patients not having a primary care physician, the concern of fragmented care and physician-patient relationships is negated.
All of the above, along with the growing acceptance of AI-based screenings, create ideal conditions for the continued growing trend of walk-in retail clinics and a rise in rates of follow-through for preventative care.
AEYE Health’s automated retinal screening solution is an ideal example of an additional service that can be offered at these clinics, as the screen requires only a nurse, admin, or technician, and provides instant results. Patients who are at high risk for retinal conditions can easily complete the screen while shopping at the retailer, rather than making a special trip for a short exam. You can learn more about the need for annual screenings at https://www.aeyehealth.com/need.