Study: In-Store Clinics Give MDs Run for Their Money

Discussion
Sep 02, 2009
George Anderson

By
George Anderson

Consumers get as good or better treatment for minor ailments
at a fraction of the cost of a visit to the doctor when they go to an in-store
clinic. That is the finding of a new study published in the September edition
of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The research funded by the California Health Care Foundation and the National
Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, looked
at data from 2,100 patients treated for ailments including ear infections,
sore throats and urinary tract infections.

The quality of care provided was found to be on par with doctors’ offices
and urgent care centers and better than a trip to the emergency room. The cost
for the treatments at in-store clinics were substantially lower than the other
options.

According to the study’s findings, the total cost for treatment
at in-store clinics was $110 compared to $156 at an urgent care center, $166
at a MD’s office and $570 for an emergency room trip. Most of the patients
in the study had health insurance.

“We need to continue to examine retail medical clinics as they
grow in number, but the results we have seen thus far suggest they provide
high-quality care in a convenient and cost-effective fashion,” Dr. Ateev
Mehrotra of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Rand
research institute told Reuters.

Discussion Questions:
With growing evidence that in-store clinics provide quality care at reasonable
prices, is it time for retailers to actively educate consumers on how
much the same procedure will cost going to other healthcare providers?
Can creating a “retail” approach help bring down the nation’s healthcare
costs?

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13 Comments on "Study: In-Store Clinics Give MDs Run for Their Money"


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Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 8 months ago
There was a time with the pharmacists wanted the right to diagnose certain illnesses and conditions. When that did not happen, they went to the next best thing by opening up medical clinics within the pharmacy itself, and staffing it will medical professionals. The model works. It brings down the cost of medical care, it reduces the number of people who tend to run to the hospital emergency room when they have a cold or flu, and it provides available medical care, at affordable prices, close to people’s homes. For the retailer, it allows for one-stop diagnosis, and then sell the “patient” the treatment. It is important to remember that when a patient is in the medial office, wherever that office is, they are still a patient. The minute they walk away from the office, they become a consumer. What better way to sell them product than to have them become a consumer while still in the store? It’s a battle brewing between the pharmacy chain and the medical profession. Evidence indicates that this is… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

If retailers are devoting in-store footage to a clinic, they should be promoting it. This study may provide the needed ammunition, particularly in this economy. Consumers should be told about the quality of care they will receive at a clinic and the cost. If clinics can build consumer trust, they could drive down some healthcare costs.

Advertising a clinic is not like selling produce. Consumers buy healthcare based on quality of service and trust in the service provider. Building that trust will take time. So any effort to advertise clinics should take a long-term view, with the goal being incremental growth.

Given time, advertising, and most of all, quality care, retailers can build their clinics into successful, profit-generating areas of the store.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
Thanks, George, I’ve been looking forward to a little rant on this subject. Cutting to the chase, I AM AGIN IT although the study comes at a perfect time to highlight the iniquitous greed of some other “healthcare providers”. I hope it’s getting a whole lot of publicity over there – at least as much as the town hall meetings that I’ve read about which appear to be more slanging match than considered debate. As someone who generally thinks that big name brands are over-rated and over-marketed, I do strongly prefer being diagnosed and treated by qualified medical practitioners over people with lesser qualifications who work out of retail outlets. I also prefer having consistency of care, even when I see more than one doctor at my own practice over a period of time. At least I know that they all know me, my family, our history and circumstances. It pains me that there is a need for these clinics to treat people who cannot afford care or insurance. It also pains me that other… Read more »
Phil Rubin
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
There is an epic struggle about to take place in the health care arena. Notwithstanding the proposed legislation in Congress, all the players are fighting for their lives–and ours–as they attempt to demonstrate and sustain relevance in terms of health care and wellness. The list of these “players” continues to grow and now includes MDs, hospitals, urgent care centers, universities, pharma/medical supply/equipment companies, health clubs and insurance companies. There are also roles for employers to play and of course the government. Competition is always important and healthcare shouldn’t be exempt from it. Those that will compete on the dimension of price should succeed in creating and shifting demand in the short term and perhaps even lower costs. Yet healthcare is also one of those things that have a large degree of elasticity, particularly with more acute problems. So it will be imperative that those adopting a price-leading strategy (and promoting themselves as such) be willing to concede on the issue of quality, whether real or perceived. The Wal-Marts of the world are great for buying… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Not only do most consumers not have a clue of what their medical insurance or treatment cost, they can’t find out. Next time you need to have a test done at a hospital, try calling in advance to see what it will cost…they’ll tell you that they don’t know, and will act as if you’re from Mars.

Nontraditional approaches with transparent pricing will be very attractive to those of us who pay for our own health care and who are painfully aware of the numbers. These clinics should anticipate steady growth.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I agree that an in-store clinic is just as effective as going to the doctor. I also agree that taking some over-the-counter meds and rest is just as effective. For the most part, a person can do for themselves what an in-store clinic can do. If a person is truly sick, the in-store clinics can’t do much other than recommend seeing a doctor. There are probably a few exceptions such as the rare strep throat case.

Jeff Hall
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

It is encouraging for our healthcare system to see Walgreens, CVS, Target and the like expanding into quick-care, in-store clinics. As in-store clinics become widely available, perhaps this will serve as a catalyst to begin shifting consumer behavior when it comes to how and where they seek treatment for the most common ailments.

A critical component to the study results is that in-store clinics are providing consumers comparable or even better service at a substantially lower cost for “the most common ailments”–i.e. flu shots, treatment for colds, sore throats, etc. Similar to most doctors’ offices, in-store clinics employ nurse practitioners to assess and treat patients for the most common issues. In this case, competition is good because it drives down costs and shifts patients away from urgent care settings and emergency rooms where more critical health ailments should be treated.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

No need to rush to the “Price” point. That’s not the way most of the U.S. population “shops” for Health Care. The Consumer seeks Quality, Convenience, Service, Trust, Confidentiality, etc.

No need to commoditize the services by calling out “Price.” The Consumer will value the other reasons first, and then factor in their own perspective of price as they take on these services.

Keep the message within the Clinics, consistent with the message being delivered about the overall Chain/Pharmacy.

Sandy Miller
Guest
Sandy Miller
11 years 8 months ago

In store clinics provide retailers a significant benefit tied to key issues of health, convenience and low cost–immediate benefits. It is beneficial to the shopper and children she has with her. And it is important and memorable.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 8 months ago

To the degree that patients have insurance coverage, out-of-pocket cost is not a differentiating factor. Patients pay the same co-pay whether they go to an in-store clinic or a doctor’s office.

(I can see insurance companies requiring a lower co-pay for an in-store clinic than a doctor’s office, to incentivize patients to visit the clinic, as they do with different co-pays for a doctor’s office and an emergency room.)

If the quality of the care is comparable, from a patient’s perspective the key differentiator is timeliness and convenience, and these are no small factors. They are potentially enormous competitive advantages, it seems to me.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

As we are finding out, people feel very strongly, if not illogically and irrationally about their healthcare. For this reason, retailers must take great care in promoting the in-store clinics. Please let’s not see on Sunday’s flyer “Now Great HealthCare at Walgreens Only $99.”

The retailers should focus their marketing efforts independently of the store advertising and locally emphasizing the great care with great healthcare professionals. This can not be perceived as private label healthcare. Also, it can not be perceived as a place where those without health insurance go because they can’t afford anything else.

However, the tipping point for success will be when the health insurers buy on, promoting and provide a co-pay structure that encourages their members to start trying the clinics. But that doesn’t mean it will appreciably bring down health care costs. The bulk of healthcare costs are not in everyday doctor visits, but in more extensive care that is not in the realm of these types of facilities.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I have to say, getting my flu vaccine at Safeway last year was extremely convenient. Plus I got some free coupons, which was extra value added. I felt totally safe and well taken care of. It was much more pleasant than most doctors offices. And my wife, who is an ER doc, encouraged me to go there.

If Safeway or Walgreens could do that with minor injuries/illnesses as well, I’d be thrilled. My wife and her colleagues wouldn’t be put out in the least to get the barely-sick non-emergency stuff off their plates (perhaps the primary care docs would, though). Why would anyone want to go to the ER for that stuff? Don’t they know it’s dangerous with all the sick people there?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 8 months ago

Anyone who’s tired of my extolling the health care model pioneered by Kaiser Aluminum should stop me now…Whoops! Too late! As you may know, Kaiser Permanente began as an in-house healthcare program offered by Kaiser Aluminum to their employees. In these spaces in the past, I’ve argued that Walmart and other retailers with in-store clinics could give their employees better and cheaper healthcare by requiring them to receive all their basic care in those clinics. Think about it. What if employees had to come into the store to manage their workers comp care? Think costs would go down? Having consulted on the WC program for the San Francisco Transit Union, I learned that the single biggest abuse of the system (adding cost) is doctors encouraging injured workers to come back for appointments over, and over, and over. That’s because they’re paid a set fee for each visit. More visits, more money. Additionally, this plan would be a great way to introduce preventative care to employees.

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