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The Pros and Cons of Retail Clinics for Seniors

While in a doctor's office waiting room, a mature woman reads an informational flyer about the services offered in the office.

An increasing number of big-box retailers have started implementing retail clinics to make it more convenient and affordable to meet your medical needs. According to Fortune Business Insights, “the U.S. retail clinics market is projected to grow from $2.05 billion in 2022 to $4.22 billion by 2029.”

But is the switch from the doctor’s office to the retail clinic a good idea?

The more you know about how these clinics operate—their benefits and drawbacks—the better decisions you’ll make about your healthcare.

The bright side of retail clinics

Convenience makes retail clinics the most appealing. With physicians’ offices busier than ever, it isn’t easy to get same-day appointments. Sometimes, you have to wait days or weeks for a consultation. Retail clinics, on the other hand, don’t have long waits. On most days, you can walk into the clinic and meet a healthcare professional within a reasonable time.

Many retail clinics also offer online scheduling to guarantee a time slot that works best for you. You can even see a healthcare professional during off-hours, with many clinics offering extended weekend and evening hours.

Another benefit of retail clinics is their locations. Nearly every major neighborhood has a shopping center or retailer with a clinic in its pharmacy. You don’t have to battle traffic or drive far to get your healthcare needs met quickly. And since most retailers with a retail clinic have a pharmacy, you can get prescriptions filled right away.

Retail clinics’ set prices are another advantage. With the cost of healthcare constantly rising, people are looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing care. Transparent pricing is a significant part of the retail clinic’s commitment to improving patient relationships.

If you can look up the price for any service on the clinic’s website, you’ll often find these prices are substantially lower than what you’d expect to pay if you were to see your primary care physician or visit the emergency room. With many people having high deductible health plans requiring exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, retail clinics can offer financial relief.

When you choose to have your health needs managed by a retail clinic, you’re not sacrificing quality care. According to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, they deliver comparable and often superior care to the emergency room and urgent care centers when treating common health problems, such as urinary tract infections, sore throats, and ear infections. 

The downsides of retail clinics

While retail clinics have many benefits, they’re not for everyone, especially older adults. Senior patients often take several types of medication and have chronic health conditions. Minor health issues in younger patients are more straightforward to treat. The same treatment options might be less effective in older adults with complex medical histories.

When treating an older adult, a retail clinic medical professional needs to know the following:

  • Diagnosed conditions
  • Treatment history
  • Diagnostic testing history
  • Medications prescribed
  • Adverse reactions or allergies to medications
  • Family health history

Individuals with complicated medical histories might have difficulty answering these questions, which could affect their level of care. In situations like these, a primary care physician can access this information and fill in the blanks.

Another drawback to retail clinic healthcare is the delay of essential treatment. Misdiagnosis is possible without access to a patient’s complete medical history; as a result, a patient may not receive a timely health intervention. You might need diagnostic testing not available at the retail clinic and be sent home without it. Or you might be referred to the emergency room for further tests and observation, making the trip to the retail clinic an unnecessary detour.

Lastly, although the affordability of retail clinics is attractive, some people overuse them. In the long run, over-utilization can lead to higher healthcare costs.

The bottom line

Retail clinics are viable options for people seeking fast, affordable, quality care for common health issues. You can get in and out quickly and feel better faster. However, if you have a complicated health history and take multiple medications, your primary doctor might be the better choice for your healthcare needs.

The Moorings at Lewes offers a full spectrum of care services — including assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and senior rehabilitation services. These high-quality senior health services are delivered with attention to the individual and in a way that gives residents the freedom to enjoy life as they choose. Contact us to find out more.

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