More Americans get their health care where they do their shopping, a new poll finds. A growing number of adults and children now use retail clinics (often called in-store or convenient care clinics) for routine health-care needs, according to results from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital National Poll on Childrens Health. Specifically, 11% of adults and 10% of children have used retail clinics. Also, 19% of adults and 15% of children plan to use these clinics for care in the future.

Retail clinics, as defined by the poll, are small walk-in health-care offices in department stores or pharmacies and typically staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants. They advertise treatment for common acute health problems, screening tests and vaccinations. The selling point: Retail clinics aim to offer treatment that is more convenient, quicker and less expensive than care in traditional doctors offices and emergency rooms. The average cost for a retail clinic visit ranges from $40 to $70.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued a policy statement opposing the use of retail-based clinics to treat infants, children and adolescents. These clinics do not support the medical home model, in which each child has his or her own health-care provider that knows his or her health care needs and can provide preventive care, the AAP argues. 

Parents view retail clinics as a fresh and convenient alternative to taking their child to a doctors office for minor health concernsit saves them time, and most often is covered by their insurance, says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Childrens Health. This trend, and the fact that parents are so satisfied with the care they have received, suggests that the demand for retail-clinic care for children will rise steadily.

Indeed, the number of retail clinics continues to grow. The first one opened in 2000. Today, more than 20 companies operate about 300 retail clinics in the United States, with an estimated 2,000 or more clinics expected to open by the end of 2008.

Vol. No: 144:05Issue: 5/15/2007