news Can a drugstore be your only doctor?

When I walked into my local chain drugstore to buy some shampoo, I noticed that the in-store health clinic offered flu shots. No waiting time. You are overdue for that vaccination, so get it and accept the clinician’s offer for a blood pressure screening.

Just 15 minutes in and you’re done. The clinic accepts me and I am happy that I was able to comfortably get good treatment at little to no expense. your insurance.

Do you have a catch? Maybe. With your complete medical history in front of you, would your doctor interpret your blood pressure reading differently than a nurse practitioner at a retail clinic? Did you? If you don’t have a family doctor, should you accept a nurse’s nonchalant remark that your blood pressure is “a little high”?

Similar questions can arise for any service you receive at a retail health clinic.

But there’s no denying that these clinics, located in pharmacies, supermarkets, and other big box stores, provide what too many Americans lack. A traditional clinic, doctor-staffed emergency center, or emergency room.

Will Retail Healthcare Promote Your Long-Term Health?

Bottom Line: If you are considering getting medical services from a retail clinic, consider not only how quickly you can get things done, but how this mode of care delivery will help you in the long run. wise.

Dr. Atib Melotra, Professor of Health Policy at Harvard Medical School and Hospitalist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said: “Choice is a good thing, but it introduces new problems. there is.

“There are also trade-offs between cost, quality and convenience, all of which are complicated to navigate,” he adds.

Retail clinics can offer excellent value for basic services

As a popular gateway, retail clinics have become a major force in American healthcare.With more than 1,100 MinuteClinics, CVS can treat sore throats and remove sutures and surgical staples. There is a nature. Walgreens has hundreds of clinics that treat ailments such as back pain, headaches and urinary tract infections. But what value can consumers expect from a for-profit clinic without a doctor on site?

Appropriate care can usually be found at competitive prices, researchers found.

A 2016 Rand Corp. report concluded, “For selected groups of conditions, retail clinics provide comparable quality of care compared to other settings.”

Also, Northeastern University researchers found in the journal Medical Care in 2019 that retail clinics average Chargeless Than other care settings for similar services.

Ideal for young people without chronic diseases

Whether a retail clinic is a good option for you depends, at least in part, on your age and general health.

“People who attend these clinics tend to be younger, healthier, and less likely to have a family doctor,” says Dr. Mehrotra. “For those examined in studies such as urinary tract infections, sore throats, and sinusitis, the care this population receives in retail clinics is comparable to, or in some cases better than, the care they receive in retail clinics. An emergency department or urgent care center is also good.”

But for older patients, especially those with multiple chronic conditions, “continuity of care is very important. It’s important to know the patient’s medical history and medications,” says Dr. Mehrotra. “For them, this may not be the best option.”

Most retail clinics do not offer comprehensive primary care

Physicians are concerned about the long-term effectiveness of healthcare provided in the retail environment only by mid-level providers such as nurse practitioners. And according to Rand’s report, only about one-third of retail clinic users report having a primary care physician.

According to Dr. Mehrotra’s research, “going to retail clinics negatively impacts ongoing care with multiple visits to the same doctor,” he says. “And many studies show that higher continuity of care is associated with better outcomes.”

The medical community agrees. “GPs develop long-term relationships with their patients and take a holistic view of their health,” Rebecca Beeler, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Family Medicine, said in an email. providers are uniquely positioned to deliver proactive, preventive care that prioritizes the long-term health of their patients.”

“Unfortunately, over the last 10 to 15 years, people in the United States have been going to primary care less frequently,” says Dr. Mehrotra. But for patients, getting involved in primary care practice is easier said than done. ”

In fact, more than 97 million Americans live in areas where there is a shortage of primary care medical professionals, according to an analysis by the KFF, a health policy nonprofit.

Retail health clinics are expanding their service offerings

Despite the shortage of clinicians, retail healthcare giants are beginning to offer a wider range of medical services by partnering with health systems or acquiring primary care chains.

Partnering with Cleveland Clinics and adding the HealthHUB brand to 900 minute clinics, CVS provides chronic disease management and other services to people with conditions like diabetes. Walgreens has also partnered with his VillageMD to open a doctor-staffed, full-service primary care practice in addition to select drugstores.

Patients face challenges in integrating their health records

Regardless of the type of retail clinic, it is important for patients to ask how information about their medical condition and care is communicated between the clinic and other provider organizations. According to 46% of healthcare executives and clinicians surveyed by his NEJM Catalyst from the Massachusetts Medical Association in his 2022 survey, even the few healthcare systems that own or partner with retail clinics have less access to patient privacy. Tracking health data over time is difficult.

“Ideally, we’d like to have all of our medical records in one place,” says Kenneth Hertz, principal consultant at KTHConsulting, which provides medical practice management advice. “It’s hard to get the full picture because the records are so fragmented in so many places.”

Hertz and his wife are experiencing fragmentation of their medical records.

“A local clinic staffed by physician assistants and nurses has health records for my wife and me, but they don’t send the information to their primary care physicians,” says Hertz. “But my wife is the one who always gets the printouts and takes them to the doctor’s office so they can be scanned. She acts as her own health communication network. So the consolidation of her records is It’s clearly a problem.”

Retail clinics are unlikely to solve the continuity of care and health record issues anytime soon. But for the millions of Americans who prioritize convenience or have limited access to medical professionals, a nurse practitioner behind the store can help fill a critical gap in care. .

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