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New data published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine definitively show that retail clinics located near hospitals do nothing to reduce the number of visits to the emergency room. Proponents of drugstore, grocery, and “big box store” clinics have suggested in the past that offering walk-in care in a retail setting would keep patients with low-acuity complaints out of the ED, but apparently many patients don’t see it that way. The Annals report focused on visits to EDs in close proximity to retail clinics (defined as being within a 10-minute drive), finding that just 13.7% of all ED visits were for conditions that reasonably could have been handled in the retail setting. The researchers looked at low-acuity admission rates in 2,043 EDs from 2006 to 2012. The study found no correlation between the opening of a retail clinic and a reduction in ED visits for low-acuity conditions. The authors concluded that “with increased patient demand resulting from the expansion of health insurance coverage, retail clinics may emerge as an important care location, but to date, they have not been associated with a meaningful reduction in low-acuity ED visits.”

Retail Clinics Don't Help Clear Traffic in the ED