If you’re looking for relief from expensive insurance plans and doctor visits, affordable health care at your nearest drug store may be the cure for what ails you.
That’s because more and more retail drug, grocery and department stores are opening convenient care clinics (CCCs) on site, offering health care without a doctor appointment and for less than the cost of an emergency room visit.
In fact, the number of these retail clinics in the U.S. has increased more than five-fold from 202 locations in late 2006 to 1,111 as of April 1, according to Tom Charland, CEO of Merchant Medicine, a research group specializing in retail clinic market data.
What the Clinics Offer
Retail clinics are relatively low-cost and accessible. They’re generally open seven days a week, and they stay open evenings, too.
Generally run by separate clinic operators and not the store itself, the offices are equipped to administer vaccinations, diagnostic tests and physical exams, including those often required before you can sign up for a school sports team. They also treat non-emergency conditions including infections, skin conditions and minor injuries that might otherwise send you to a hospital emergency room for urgent care. (Without a convenient care clinic, 40% or more of patients said they would have gone to the emergency room, urgent care center or forgone treatment altogether, according to a survey by the Convenient Care Association, an organization of retail-based clinics.)In-store clinics accept most insurance plans, and if you don’t have insurance, you’ll probably end up paying $40 to $70 for a clinic visit, according to Convenient Care Association estimates.
How the Clinics Compare
To keep costs low, most retail clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners instead of doctors. Unlike a regular nurse, nurse practitioners are trained to conduct physical exams, diagnose conditions and prescribe medication. (Some retail clinics, such as those at New York City-based drug store Duane Reade, do have a doctor on site.)