Retail walk-in clinics have experienced a major surge in growth and use in the just the past six years. The spike was the result of planned business expansions to provide convenient non-emergency care that was promoted by policy makers and insurers as a way to decrease healthcare costs. A new study published in the March issue of Health Affairs has found that far from decreasing costs, retail clinics are responsible for an increased cost of around $14 per person per year.

Spike in retail clinic use prompts closer scrutiny

More than six million people visit walk-in retail clinics for what they largely consider “minor” services: getting a shot, finding some relief from an sinus infection, etc. Medscape Medical News reports that even though the clinks are “cheaper per visit, retail clinic consultations ‘may also lead to new utilization (when patients who previously would not have sought care visit a retail clinic because of its lower price or perceived convenience), which increases both the total number of patient visits and spending.’”

The incredible volume of patients using retail clinics for care is a recent phenomenon. Researchers used data from the health insurer Aetna as well as retail clinics to track use in 22 cities from 2010 to 2012. In 2010, not a single subscriber visited a retail clinic. Just two years later, 69 per 100 Aetna members had visited a retail clinic. The increase of retail clinic use has resulted in a simultaneous decrease of physician and emergency rooms visits. The study analyzed the respective costs and found that members were, on average, spending more money on retail clinic care.

The cost of convenience

While there is certainly something to be said for the price of convenience, retail clinics are changing the way that patients can access healthcare. That access is driven by retail expansion and dollars, not by concern for patient care. Sound familiar? Last August, we wrote about a company called Adeptus that had announced plans to open freestanding emergency rooms around the country. An analysis of their business practices found that the company was targeting wealthy communities and inflating the cost of care.

When big business turns to public healthcare to increase profits, the results are always the same. Cost-cutting measures negatively impact quality of care, and people suffer. At Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we fight for the rights of victims everywhere. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a healthcare provider’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Visit our offices in Nashville, Gallatin, or Knoxville or contact us today for a free consultation with our Tennessee personal injury attorneys.