Should you frequent the walk-In clinic?

July 2, 2014

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Currently in the US, there are roughly 1,600 walk-in medical clinics that reside in drugstores and supermarkets such as CVS, Walgreens, and Target. This number is projected to double within three years due to higher demands of newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act. Walk-in medical clinics are so popular because no appointment is necessary, they accept a wide range of insurance, and they are open seven days a week, including evening hours. The services at the walk-in clinics are provided by nurse practitioners or physician assistants who are qualified to write prescriptions, and aid with flu vaccines, urinary-tract infections, diabetes screening, and much more.  Costs per visit to the walk-in clinics range from $79 to $89, which does not include the charge for lab tests. For example, a strep throat test costs $30 at CVS.

People are choosing walk-in clinics over their doctors’ offices because they can avoid setting appointments and the lengthy wait time. A study in 2009 published in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that retail clinics provide less costly treatment than urgent-care centers and physician offices while offering comparable quality of care by looking at 700 of the most common conditions: inflammation of the middle ear, urinary tract infections, and pharyngitis. The results of this study showed that the cost of care for each episode averaged at $110 at retail clinics, $156 at urgent care centers, $166 at doctors’ offices, and $570 in emergency departments. By examining the different prices for basic medical examinations, people can shop smarter to find the best care at the most cost-effective price. 

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