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May 23/30, 2012

Retail Clinics and Drugstore Medicine

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: American Board of Internal Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

JAMA. 2012;307(20):2151-2152. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3966

Easy access to medical clinics in retail settings is gaining momentum in the United States. While criticized in some quarters, these clinics are successful as measured by patient satisfaction and quality scores. Retail clinics hold potential for a uniquely US solution to the problem of access to primary care. Although questions remain about their future, evidence suggests that retail clinics may have an important role in US health care.

Among the most important issues facing health care today are access to care, cost of care, and coordination of care. The first issue, access to care, has multiple features. If there is not full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured patients in the United States who cannot afford care will increase.1 In addition, the health care delivery system is generally unable to provide patients access to timely information and to prompt clinician attention to problems in a timely and efficient manner. The shortage of primary care physicians in the United States has made access worse as many primary care physician panels are full, and few physicians offer open access scheduling. Some health problems are neglected while other health problems are treated in emergency departments or other high-cost settings where care is not personalized and is extremely expensive—especially for simple problems. For a working person with a sudden onset of a febrile illness, the retail clinic provides a solution: that person can be seen quickly the day the problem arises and most often is able to receive a simple and straightforward evaluation and treatment or recommendation to seek specialist care if indicated.

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