According to the statistics shared by the United States Census Bureau, around 8% (26.1 million) of Americans weren’t covered by health insurance till the year 2019. For the people who cannot afford to have medical health insurance, it quickly becomes a medical debt when an emergency occurs as having insurance seems to be an out-of-pocket external cost. To tackle the issue, they need an inexpensive solution and this is where retail clinics jump in. But the thing is, we have heard about retail stores, online retail stores but not about retail clinic, then what is a retail clinic?
Retail clinics are not insurance specific, meaning they don’t need you to have insurance plans that cover a range of medical treatments against a premium. They are located in outlets and supermarkets offering affordable healthcare as compared to usual healthcare facilities for instant relief of care.
In cases where you are working with a group practitioner or under a physician at practice, then you should have a look at the details of a retail clinic that will help you make some extra.
Further in the article today, we will discuss a range of ambiguities about retail clinics, how they work, and what are some benefits of running a retail clinic.
What is a retail clinic?
A clinic that aims to provide immediate care to patients without making an appointment is referred to a retail clinic. These clinics can be easily found in supermarkets, malls, departmental stores, and grocery stores. People who need immediate treatment and those who don’t want to go through the hassles of making appointments and visiting their personal physicians can visit these clinics for their regular checkups and for emergency care.
Retail clinics are becoming well-known across the US because of the affordable care provision and shorter wait times compared to providers’ offices or hospitals. With this detail, it is apparent that even people the insurance plans can visit retail clinics and have treatment for their common ailments.
It is also necessary to make sure that these clinics are only for non-serious ailments like flu, cold, sore throat, etc. as they are not equipped with resources and the experience of handling life or accident emergencies.
However, people are more likely affected by seasonal allergies, so these clinics are well-common and approached. And the following statistics back the statement more effectively.
- Prices in these retail clinics are about 80% less compared to hospitals, public, and private healthcare practices.
- 70% of the outlets are located in Midwestern and southern states including Florida, Ohio, and Texas.
- 80% of the retail clinics are operated in the outlets of Walgreen and Kroger.
How much does the care cost at a retail clinic?
As mentioned, retail clinics cost significantly lower than a typical healthcare facility, urgent care, or any emergency room. They aim to provide acute services and offer transparent prices which are of course, helpful if you are not insured. Plus, if you’re insured and don’t wish to give out-of-pocket charges to them at the time of treatment, they also accept Medicare and Medicaid insurance to help you receive the services you need at the moment.
The cost of retail clinics differs according to the clinics. According to MinuteClinic, a vitamin B12 injection will cost you $35 and vaccination for HPV for $261. The pricing of particular clinics is on their websites as well. So, if you know the name of the clinic when you visit them, do check their website prior.
Many times, retail clinics are affiliated with a healthcare system, which offers pricing options;
- Patients linked with the healthcare system
- Patients with insurance plans (private) outside of the healthcare system
- Patients who wish to pay out-of-pocket or are without any healthcare plan
Another retail clinic example is Sutter Health Walk-in Care clinics located in California. If you belong to the last pricing option mentioned above, then you must expect to pay around $129 for a standard retail clinic visit, $23 to $273 for vaccination, and $99 for screening.
Notable pros and cons of retail clinics
Although these retail clinics are made to provide urgent care for non-chronic ailments to people without asking for insurance coverage. Despite that, several drawbacks are there that need to be considered. Here is a comparison of some benefits and drawbacks of retail clinics to spot on;
Pros of Retail clinics
Fixed and transparent pricing
Whenever you visit a supermarket or a mall to shop and you find a banner for a retail clinic inside, you can have all the details on the banner. There are no hidden charges and no specific charges for a particular treatment. You can also check the website of the provider for the details and places where they are providing their retail clinic services.
No appointment required
People can walk-in the retail clinics and have themselves checked without an appointment. This is one of the most appreciated benefits of retail clinics which saves a lot of time for patients.
Extended care hours
People can visit these retail clinics even on the weekends and the clinics remain open for an extended time period compared to a usual provider’s office.
Cons of retail clinics
Not necessarily equipped with a provider
A retail clinic is staffed mainly with physicians’ assistants or nurses. Clinics don’t really have certified practitioners or specialists in practice.
Not suitable for everyone or every ailment
Not suitable for people with long chronic medical histories (usually old age people). Not meant for emergencies.
There’s no relationship-building with the patients. They see people for 15 or less 15 minutes and take no follow-ups for the advised prescriptions.
What is the difference between urgent care and retail care clinics?
Several similarities are there between urgent care and a retail clinic, such as walk-in treatment without an appointment, affordable service, and extended hours of care which makes people confused while differentiating between urgent care and retail clinics. For instance, during the time of COVID-19, people can get their COVID test at any of these facilities.
The main difference between urgent care and retail clinics is the presence of advanced equipment at an urgent care. For example, they have X-ray imaging and scanning equipment to view and manage injuries of a patient after an injury. Apart from that, a certified general physician remains on call for urgent care patients for treatment in the emergency room.
Although urgent care facilities can provide all the care that a retail clinic can, they are more inclined to provide emergency care to patients with serious or chronic conditions.
Some of the comparisons of healthcare services that retail and urgent care clinics provide are as follows;
- Sore throat
- Sprains and Strain
- Sinus infections
- Take samples for blood tests
- Physical exam
- Preventive care
- Pregnancy test
- Ear pain
- Cholesterol and blood pressure check
- Skin conditions
- Acute respiratory infections
- Hemoglobin tests and screening
- Sexually transmitted infections
Urgent Care clinics
- Minor abdominal pain
- Pink eyes
- Ear infections
- Sneezing and coughing
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
- Sore and Strep throat
- Drug Overdose and Poisoning
- Rash and Itching
- Allergies and Asthma attacks
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Chest pain and heart arrests
- Sprains and Fractures
- Mild to moderate breathing difficulty
- Injury stitches after a fall or accident
How to run an efficient practice while competing with a retail clinic?
There’s no brainer in assuming how many benefits these retail clinics are providing to the people who are not insured or cannot afford to get health insurance. However, these clinics have become increasingly common these days and pose a serious unintended competition to private practices and independent practitioners.
These affordable and approachable small clinics are enticing patients due to low costs and a shorter wait time tends to give an edge to the practitioners at the retail clinics and to those patients who have coverage.
Here are some ways that you can opt to get a hold of your practice and compete with retail clinics;
- Try extending your working hours – Many times patients visit retail clinics due to the unavailability of their family physician on weekends or at the time when they can visit.
- Offer affordable prices – try lowering your costs to retail clinics for normal injuries and nonemergency conditions.
- Provide them with the flexibility to make appointments – even if they visit your desk without making an appointment, treat them and serve them well. Offer them telehealth services to diagnose from the comfort of their home using phone calls, texts, video calls, or live chats.
- Educate them – Provide a brief to your patients about visiting retail clinics and the benefits of one-on-one experienced practitioners with the resources and facilities.