One of the retail health sector’s key selling points—convenience—may partially negate its perceived cost benefit vs urgent care or the emergency room. A new study published in Health Affairs reveals that use of retail clinics actually led to higher overall spending because patients were more inclined to seek professional care for complaints so minor that they could have been treated at home. The data, which reflect claims data from Aetna, indicate that 58% of retail clinic visits were related to care that patients would not have sought in any setting, adding up to a net increase in spending of $14 per person per year. The authors (Thygeson, et al) wrote, “Despite the lower costs per episode, retail clinics could still increase the overall cost of care by inducing demand from people who would have treated themselves or delayed care because retail clinics missed the opportunity to provide preventive or chronic disease care.”
Are Retail Clinics Pennywise, Pound-foolish?