Retail Clinics: Critical Partners in Coordinated Care

January 4th 2016
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor

Retail clinicians’ increasing scope of practice has fostered a shift from providing episodic acute care to establishing a crucial role in the care continuum.

Retail clinicians’ increasing scope of practice has fostered a shift from providing episodic acute care to establishing a crucial role in the care continuum.

Convenient care clinics have traditionally treated acute conditions such asconjunctivitis, minor broken bones, andburns. Now, retail clinicians are moving toward becoming first-line health care providers for preventive services such asimmunizations,weight management, andsmoking cessation.

Although they have been criticized for fragmenting care and disrupting continuity, many currently also manage chronic conditions such ashypertension,diabetes, andasthma. Often, this care is provided with oversight from a physician within a health system.

In a recent commentary published in theAmerican Journal of Medicine, James E. Dalen, MD, MPH, postulated that in this collaborative model, “the retail clinic can become an extension of medical homes by providing ongoing care at convenient sites outside the hospital.”

One major advantage ofcloser collaborationbetween health systems and retail clinics is the improved care access and convenience for patients. An estimated 29% of the US population lives within a 10-minute drive of a retail clinic.

Convenience is a key factor in improvingmedication adherence, which is universally understood as critical in optimizing patient outcomes.

A second major advantage of partnerships between health systems and retail clinics is lower health care costs, especially among patients who historically visited emergency departments for non-emergency conditions. One study published inHealth Affairsestimated that about 14% of all emergency department visits could occur at a retail clinic.

Retail clinicians’ shift from providing acute care almost exclusively could have lasting implications on the US health system. As providers increasingly move toward value-based purchasing agreements, patient outcomes and readmissions are critical.

Related Content