Tired of waiting to get into the doctor’s office? There are new trends emerging which are more affordable and accessible for patients.
In Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Oregon, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey, clinics are arriving inside the CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Duane Reed, Osco Drug, Wal-Mart and Target stores. These clinics focus on the convenience of fitting into a consumer’s daily schedule. It will soon be possible to take care of errands, get a sinus infection diagnosed (with about a 15-minute wait for a walk-in), and fill the prescription all in one stop. This is a welcome relief for those accustomed to hassles such as being squeezed into a doctor’s schedule, getting to the doctor’s office, and dealing with the inevitable wait in the waiting room.
These new clinics keep regular retail hours, and an office visit costs less than in most physician offices. One of the clinic companies, MinuteClinics, reports that a visit to one of their clinics tends to cost between $40 and $60 for most ailments, compared to upwards of $150 for a typical physician’s office. These clinics do take insurance, but are also very cognizant that many of their patients are paying out of pocket or with an HSA. They make it work by only treating certain ailments. This strategy also underscores that these clinics are not intended as a replacement for a primary care physician; they just offer a very convenient and cost-effective supplement to his or her service.
On the West Coast, Clinica Mi Pueblo in Anaheim, CA is leading a trend for cash-only clinics targeted at Spanish speakers. These clinics stay open until midnight seven days a week and charge $25 for an office visit (compared to $77-$104 at area physician offices). They even offer coupons for 10% off. Storefront clinics like this have popped up like wildfire in response to a strong consumer need for accessible and reasonably-priced health care. Costs stay low because the clinics avoid the administrative hassle of insurance paperwork altogether; they just don’t accept it.
In such cases as Clinica Mi Pueblo, there is also a cultural component. These clinics have bilingual staff, which makes a tremendous difference for Spanish-speaking people in need of health care. For example, if a doctor advises a patient against fatty foods, he or she can refer to certain Latin dishes by name.
One caveat critics have noted is that it’s not always possible to count on the standard of care received at a storefront clinic, especially when compared to the non-profit community clinics that have long tried to fill this service gap for America’s uninsured. The non-profit community clinics generally receive some federal funding along the way, which means they have to be up to federal standards. The more entrepreneurial storefront clinics do not. But that doesn’t change the fact that cash-based medical care for the modern American is in the process of evolving to meet time and convenience needs.
The administrator for RediClinics, Web Golinkin, puts it this way: “I think that, in the broadest sense, health care is becoming more consumer-driven for a whole variety of reasons. Consumers are being asked to pay more of their health care directly out of pocket. In some cases, it is coming out of Health Savings Accounts, and in some cases, employers have raised deductibles and copays. So, consumers both want and need to take more control of their own health care, and they’re doing that.” As consumers cast their collective vote, it’s entirely possible to see more market adaptations like these new clinic models.