Are you ready to add “doctor” to this week’s grocery list?

While the option is not available (yet), going to the supermarket or retail outlet to treat non-emergency medical issues is a reality. Retail health clinics have joined eye clinics and dental offices in retail locations. 

What, exactly, are these “retail clinics”? How are they different from regular medical clinics? Urgent Care? Or the ER? We look to answer these questions and more at what may be a new branch in the healthcare’s future with patients. 

What is Retail Healthcare?

Retail healthcare is a form of healthcare service typically located within retail stores. They are also found within supermarkets and pharmacies. Their aim is to provide walk-in service for patients with minor medical ailments who may be also performing other errands like shopping. They are also referred to as “retail clinics,” “convenient care clinics,” and “nurse-in-a-box.” 

QuickMedx is considered the first retail health clinic. It was founded by Dr. Douglas Smith and Rick Krieger back in 2000. Krieger had this to say about the first emergence of the retail clinic:

“We started talking about why there was not a way to just get a simple question answered or a simple test, like strep throat, done. Why was there not some way to just slip in and be seen quickly? Wasn’t there some way to get care in a timely manner for a relatively simple illness? A quick, convenient way to diagnose without waiting in the ER or clinic for two hours? We are not talking about diabetes, cancer or heart disease. We are talking about colds and throat and ear infections.”

QuickMedx later changed its name to MinuteClinic. Consumer Value Store, more well-known today as CVS, later purchased the MinuteClinic chain in 2006. 

Three of the most most well-known retail health chains in the US include:

  • MinuteClinic by CVS
  • Target Clinics by Kaiser Permanente
  • Little Clinics by Kroger
  • RediClinics by Rite Aid

Six Benefits of Retail Healthcare for Patients

In the healthcare industry, retail health clinics provide an alternative for patients who may normally go to urgent care centers or emergency rooms for their medical needs. These healthcare retailers differ from the two in the following manner:

Location Convenience 

Retail clinics, as previously mentioned, are based within large big-box stores, outlets, malls, and other retail shopping complexes. This makes them easy for patients to locate as most are centrally located in urban, suburbia, and even rural areas. Parking spots usually are plentiful as well. And it’s a breeze for patients to get any prescriptions filled. 

Better Hours of Operation 

Retail clinics are usually open longer than an urgent care center. Typical hours may be twelve hours a day during the work week and eight hours a day on the weekend. Some may also have holiday hours depending on the chain.  

No Long Wait times 

One of the big advantages of health retail is that patients can visit without making an appointment. They can walk in, check in with a staff member or use a patient kiosk, and wait to be seen. Some clinics, though, encourage patients to schedule one depending on how busy they are. Regardless, retail clinics have shorter wait times compared to urgent care centers or emergency departments.

Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs) 

Retail health clinics are primarily staffed by advanced practice clinicians: nurse practitioners (NP) or physician assistants (PA). Both healthcare professionals have been educated, trained and – most importantly – certified to treat non-life-threatening health issues. An MD, who may or may not be on-site, reviews their work on a medical computer and signs off.  

Limited Medical Services 

Retail health clinics are permitted to treat minor illnesses, injuries and offer some forms of preventive care. The medical staff cannot do stitches, take X-rays, or treat life-threatening emergencies. 

A partial list of medical services and treatments include:

  • Allergies
  • Allergy test
  • Bronchitis
  • Cold and Flu
  • Diarrhea and intestinal infections
  • Ear infections
  • Head lice
  • Headaches
  • Minor injuries, burns, and rashes
  • Pinkeye
  • Ringworm
  • Sinus Infections
  • Sore throat
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Warts

A few health retailer clinics may be permitted to give vaccinations and perform certain forms of screenings. Physical therapy with a specialist is available with a few. Others may offer telehealth options especially for rural healthcare

Set and Transparent Pricing 

Costs for services at a retail health clinic are typically less than urgent care, the emergency room, and even a typical medical office visit. They usually charge a set price for a particular service or treatment. This is in sharp contrast to most medical clinics and hospitals where pricing and costs are fluid and handled by insurance companies. 

Retail clinics usually post pricing for their list of services onsite, online, or both. Most accept some form of health plan including Medicare and Medicaid. For patients with no coverage, cash and credit cards are acceptable.

Closing Comment 

Retail health clinics are an alternative form of healthcare service for patients. In contrast to urgent care centers and emergency rooms, retail clinics offer convenient locations, lack of wait times, and readily available pricing of services. Treatment, however, is limited to non-emergency medical issues administered by non-MD clinicians.   

Contact an expert at Cybernet if your health clinic retail stores are looking into how medical PCs and medical tablets may help with clinic operations and patient care. 

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