Exploring the "Retailization" of Health Care

Retail clinics have taken a prominent position as the preferred method of care for patients who need quick and cost-effective treatment.

Arecent studypresented through the Lehigh Valley Health Network Research Scholar Program Poster Session aimed to define the impact of easily accessible retail clinics on traditional health systems. The landscape of patient care is rapidly changing to a consumer-based system rather than one that is helmed by the interactions of employers and insurance companies. This is due in large part to consumers becoming more knowledgeable about insurance packages by doing research through the Internet. There are several websites that compare and contrast plans to make it easy for one to decide which plan is best for one’s individual needs. This kind of “shopping” is a key part of the “retailization” of health care.

There is currently an imbalance in the ratio of primary care physicians to patients. In short, there are too many patients and not enough physicians. With more Americans insured than ever before as a result of the Affordable Care Act, and consumers becoming more mindful of how they spend their health care dollars, retail clinics have taken a prominent position as the preferred method of care for patients who need quick and cost-effective treatment. The author states that studies have shown that when given the option of utilizing a clinic versus going to a doctor’s office, Americans prefer the clinic due to its lower cost and same-day appointment availability. Additionally, the author cites research conducted byHealth Affairswhich found that going to a MinuteClinic saved patients $55 on average compared with a visit to a physician’s office. Similarly, research conducted by theAnnals of Internal Medicinefound that the cost of going to a retail clinic was much less than a visit to a doctor’s office, an urgent care center, or an emergency department. Patients also foundthe level of care was comparableto the traditional office visit with their physician.

In addition, as more and more patients are turning away from the traditional visit to the doctor’s office, providers are changing the way they handle patients to accommodate a more consumer-driven health care system.Telehealthis a new method of electronic communication between doctors and their patients which allows for a cheaper and faster interaction for patients. Telehealth bridges the gap of time and money present in the traditional system. As in the case with retail clinics, telehealth provides convenience for the patient as well as savings in medical costs. The retailization of health care may continue as health care coverage costs continue to climb and Americans turn to these accessible and affordable care options.

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