The report, published online in the journal Health Affairs, found a four-fold increase in retail clinic visits from 2007 to 2009. In that year alone nearly six million patients visited such clinics, the new study found. An earlier, related report by the same authors noted 1.48 million retail clinic visits in 2006.
Patients who visited these clinics (most of them with health insurance but without a primary care doc) did so for convenience and more flexible hours, the study notes; most often they sought simple acute care or preventive care, like getting a flu shot.
According to the study:
Retail clinics have rapidly become a fixture of the U.S. health care delivery landscape. We studied visits to retail clinics and found that they increased fourfold from 2007 to 2009, with an estimated 5.97 million retail clinic visits in 2009 alone. Compared with retail clinic patients in 2000–06, patients in 2007–09 were more likely to be age sixty-five or older (14.7 percent versus 7.5 percent). Preventive care—in particular, the influenza vaccine—was a larger component of care for patients at retail clinics in 2007–09, compared to patients in 2000–06 (47.5 percent versus 21.8 percent). Across all retail clinic visits, 44.4 percent in 2007–09 were on the weekend or during weekday hours when physician offices are typically closed. The rapid growth of retail clinics makes it clear that they are meeting a patient need. Convenience and after-hours accessibility are possible drivers of this growth.