Saturday, September 5, 2009

Do Retail Medical Centers Provide Quality Care?

Since the first one opened in 2000, retail medical clinics, such as those set up in grocery stores and pharmacies, have become increasingly widespread. There are currently about 1,200 of these in-store clinics in the United States, and more than 6,000 are expected to open across the country within five years. Typically staffed by nurse practitioners, these clinics offer care for minor illnesses, including coughs, body aches, and itchy eyes; perform routine exams, like college and camp physicals, and vaccinations; as well as providing diabetes and cholesterol screening. No appointment is required, there is little to no wait time and the clinics have convenient evening and weekend hours.

Retail clinics have already served more than 3.5 million patients, according to industry group Convenient Care Association, and surveys of patients who received care at them have been positive, but some doctors groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have expressed concerns that the clinics provide a lower quality of care than traditional medical facilities, have greater rates of misdiagnosis, and over-prescribe antibiotics.

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