By Society of Certified Senior Advisors
APRIL 9, 2015 – Another new development in health care provides easy access for consumers. Retail clinics—medical clinics located in pharmacies, grocery stores and “big box” stores, such as Target—are rapidly increasing across the country. They provide care for the more every day aches, pains and common conditions—such as bronchitis and vaccinations—typically delivered by a nurse practitioner. While you’ve long been able to get a flu shot or get treated for a sore throat, many established retail clinics, such as Walgreens’ Healthcare Clinic, have expanded into diagnosing and treating chronic illnesses.
With longer hours and no appointment needed, retail clinics fill a gap between your regular physician and costly emergency room care, are often more conveniently located and accept the same insurance that your regular health care provider would.
Free-standing emergency centers are the newest addition to convenient health care options and are located in the same shopping centers as the retail medical clinics. Both accept insurance. These free-standing centers offer emergency care and promise a faster in-and-out time than hospital emergency departments (EDs). In Washington state, emergency centers treat, diagnose and discharge patients within about 90 minutes, as opposed to the state’s average hospital ED wait of four hours. Costs are comparable to those of traditional EDs—at least for the patient (“What’s Good About the New Stand-alone Emergency Rooms,” Seattle Magazine).
However, emergency centers are also generating complaints, because many people confuse them with urgent care centers, which are a form of retail medical centers for those requiring immediate care, but not serious enough to require an ED visit. Neighborhood EDs charge more than urgent care centers, because by law they must be equipped for emergencies, with special equipment and certified personnel. Some people who are treated for minor ailments, such as an allergic reaction, at a free-standing emergency center are shocked to later see huge bills. And insurance companies aren’t happy either, fighting large bills in court.
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“New healthcare model emerges in Miami,” Miami Herald
“New neighborhood emergency rooms: Fast but expensive?” May 5, 2011, KHOU 11 News
“Providers Getting Creative with New Healthcare Delivery Models,” August 8, 2013, Health Care News
“Redesigning healthcare,” March 23, 2013 Modern Healthcare
“What is Telemedicine?” American Telemedicine Association
“What’s Good About the New Stand-alone Emergency Rooms,” Seattle Magazine