Medical Care on Aisle Five

Over the past few years, I’ve read about retail health clinics being the wave of the future. It wasn’t until my son Jeremy visited a MinuteClinic in a nearby CVS drugstore that I sat up and took notice. He walked in without an appointment and was seen within 15 minutes. They accepted his insurance, diagnosed his problem, wrote a prescription and had him on his way a few minutes later. When he got a follow-up phone call at home days later to check on his condition, he was sold.

Minute-Clinic

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Located in mini-malls, discount stores and drugstores, this new wave of small clinics is transforming the health care landscape. As we are paying more out of pocket for our medical care, we’re approaching health care with more of a consumer’s eye. We want to compare prices, we want convenience and we want great customer service. That’s what these clinics have to offer.

I was a bit skeptical about treating strep throat just two aisles over from the hair care products, or taking the kids to the drugstore for their camp physicals. Now, I’m changing my mind, and fast.

Currently located in about 600 CVS stores, MinuteClinics’ team of board-certified medical practitioners are trained to diagnose, treat and write prescriptions (when clinically appropriate) for a variety of common family illnesses to patients 18 months and older (24 months and older in Massachusetts). In-network with most major insurers, patients are responsible for either their co-pay or the price clearly listed on the treatments and services menu. For those who are uninsured or prefer to pay out-of-pocket, MinuteClinic accepts cash, checks and credit cards.

To find a MinuteClinic in your area, go to MinuteClinic.com, where you can also see the list of treatments available and the exact cost for each.

Wal-Mart initially joined the trend of in-store health clinics, but closed 33 clinics in 2012 due in part to challenges from outsourcing services to local physicians and hospitals. But other retailers are joining the trend, with Walgreens operating more than 350 in-store clinics, 44 at Target stores, and 80 at Kroger-owned stores.

Not everyone is sold on retail health clinics. The American Medical Association is pushing state and federal regulators to investigate potential conflicts of interest posed by joint ventures between store-based health clinics and pharmacy chains. AMA also wants stricter state regulations on retail clinics.

Supporters of retail clinics say they help take pressure off primary care physicians and emergency rooms by taking care of simpler cases and that these retail health clinics are limited to routine physicals and commonly treated illnesses and injuries.

In 2009, the Rand Corp. compared care and costs for treating three common illnesses in different settings. In that study, retail clinics cost at least 30 percent less than physicians’ offices, urgent care centers and emergency departments, while the quality of care was at least as good.

The way I see it, this new move toward retail health clinics empowers consumers by providing us with a new level of convenience and choice for routine and minor medical issues. That can’t be a bad thing.

Question: Have you received medical care from MinuteClinic or other retail clinic? If so, share your experience here

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nyackgal

    I’ve used the CVS minute clinics for my flu shots the past 3 years…very efficient and they do the Medicare paperwork!

  • Mitomom

    My nephew was treated at a clinic in a Walgreen’s in Denver for a cold that turned into an ear infection. The nurse practitioner was thorough, gentle, and did an excellent job. She called to follow up after the initial appointment for a cold, and my nephew was happy to go back to her for the ear infection. I was very impressed.

  • Priscilla

    I clicked on the link to find a clinic and it does not tell where the clinic actually is….just says the town…does not give me an address. Do you know what I am doing wrong?
    Thanks, Priscilla

  • BBB in GA

    I’ve used CVS MinuteClinic and was very impressed. It’s the market way of addressing health care without having the government try to “fix” it. Granted, it’s not the solution to everything, but as Mary’s article noted, these facilities can help relieve the strain imposed on hospitals.

    However, I imagine a patient who can’t pay will go to an ER for an ear infection versus going to a MinuteClinic and having to pay. But for me, I’d rather go to the MinuteClinic if my son has strep versus going to his pediatrician, waiting two – three hours (if I am lucky), and then getting a diagnosis. If he doesn’t have strep but might have something worse, the MinuteClinic folks will tell you to see a doctor.

    It’s a good deal all around IMHO.

  • Beck

    My husband went to a Walgreen’s clinic for sinusitus. It was fast treatment and walked right to the pharmacy to get the meds. It was so much faster than going to the doctor then driving to the drug store. The price was $19 cheaper than the doctor office call would have been. They have office hours earlier and longer than our doctor as well.

  • Emjay

    This is really a great idea, and I wish we had a clinic at our CVS. In the first part of December, I had stomach flu and found out if a person received Tamiflu within 48 hours of the illness’s symptoms, it would lessen the length of the illness.. When I called the doctor to see if I could get Tamiflu, I was told they had an appointment two days later. I am now looking for another doctor, but a clinic would have been fine in that case!

  • Anita

    I went to a clinic at CVS for the first time this fall when I took my daughter for her flu shot. I was impressed. We were in and out very quickly, and they filed our insurance claim.

  • Carolyn

    A couple months ago my 18-yr old daughter had pink eye. Our previous experience with the medical pros was at a walk-in clinic, where we spent $250 just to have a nurse tell my daughter she had an ear infection (which she already knew). My daughter was in/out in 10 minutes and didn’t even see a doctor. I was furious over the exorbitant amount we had to pay. So with the pink eye we went to Kroger. For $70 she experienced professional care, numerous free hand sanitizer bottles, and a prescription we were NOT forced to fill at Kroger – but at any pharmacy of our choosing. This is our clinic of choice. It is also cheaper than any clinic located within CVS or Walgreen, where the prices are higher anyway.

  • Carolyn

    P.S. We did not pay the $70 because Kroger filed it with our insurance. But for anyone who does not have insurance affiliated with certain clinics or must initially pay out of pocket, Kroger is a wise choice.

  • Sheri

    I am totally sold on “minute clinics.” When without health insurance the cost was much less out of pocket and was a great alternative to what you pay at a physician’s office. I just hope the government doesn’t go messing this up too.

  • Sheri

    Priscilla, you can also call 1-800-746-7287 to find out a CVS clinic near you. Good luck!

  • Pat

    Have used the minute clinic on two occasions and found it to be a positive , professional, and cost effective alternative. For those of us who fall through the cracks and are uninsured it is a blessing. There was no pressure to get my prescription filled there and the PA. called it in to the pharmacy of my choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.drumm Christine Cortopassi Drumm

    I took both my kids to the MinuteClinic twice for strep. I should have taken them to their pediatrician, but I was trying to avoid a lot of sick waiting room kids and a long wait. MinuteClinic serves are great: short wait times, fast visits, and knowledgeable service providers. What I didn’t realize was that my daughter’s case was complicated (by mono) and our pediatrician would have figured that out sooner because he’s semiretired and has seen everything. So, while I like and recommend the MinuteClinic, keep in mind complicated cases sometimes require the continuity of a family physician.

  • Lin

    I went to an urgant care clinic last month for what I could tell was going to be a nasty, OTC-resistant cold/bronchitis. They took my word that it had gone on for 8 days with no improvement, wrote a prescription which ultimately did its job, and called me two days later for progress report. If all are run like this, it will indeed be the wave of the future, as we will all have to be better consumers after the new “ACA” kicks in full force — at least we who pay for our own medical care will have to be better consumers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathyriddle Kathy Riddle

    My husband and I tend to get at least one sinus infection a year. We are sold on CVS Minute Clinic; the wait time is minimal and once you go the first time and fill out the paperwork and they have you in their system, the subsequent visits go much faster. We are in and out quickly, with our prescriptions filled, and they send a report of the visit to our regular physician so that our medical records stay complete. I have waited as long as 3 hours to see my regular doctur, and this was a refreshing change!

  • CL

    I have used retail based clinics several times for run of the mill issues (bladder infections, etc…), while there are not minute clinics close there are other alternatives. The prices are typically less than a traditional office visit and you don’t need an appointment. Check in, be seen and evaluated, prescription if necessary, and no pressure to fill your script at the retail store the clinic is located in. They too provided a follow-up phone call to make sure I was improving. I have also used the on-line clinics with success.

  • kp

    Visited the CVS Minute Clinic this weekend for pinkeye. I was in and out in 15 minutes with my prescription in hand. This beats sitting in my doctors office waiting room for hours breathing in flu virus and who knows what else.

  • Anne Clare

    Last year I went to my primary physician for my annual physical. I had been checking my records and I was due for a tetnus shot and also a shingles shot and a pneumonia shot. He gave me the pneumonia but didn’t have the other two & told me to go to the health dept. for them. Well I tried Walgreens instead & they had them both! The shingles shot WAS expensive, but I couldn’t find it any cheaper anywhere else I went and they were so close! They have a list of everything they offer online along with the prices. I think they’re GREAT!

  • Miriam Kearney

    I live in Canada where healthcare is handled differently than the US but the idea of the walk in clinic is not new here. As a shortage of family doctors affects everyone, these clinics have sprung up all over the place. I agree with you that the convenience is nice but one of the concerns people have is that these clinics don’t really know you, don’t know your history, keep no real history files, are not connected to your family doctor, don’t send reports of your visit. In other words they are like a medical island. For some things that’s fine but symptoms of something more serious might get missed this way.

  • Joyce

    I got my flu shot there. Quick easy, in and out. No sitting in a crowded waiting room with a lot of sick people.

  • Kathy M

    My niece went to one when she was visiting us from out of state. She really liked it. Another big plus is you are not in a cramped waiting room, filled to capacity & catching more illness than when you came in. Rated A+

  • Tiana

    A few years ago when Hurricane Katrina knocked downs trees and power for weeks, my son hurt himself, slicing the top of his foot to the point where we could see the muscles, ligaments, etc. moving – really bloody. All of the hospitals ER rooms were packed so we went to a walk-in clinic. They too lost electricity but had a generator to run the lights. they quickly numbed my son’s foot and stitched it up. Very little pain, calmed my freaked out son (and his parents :) and called a few days later to follow up. In some cases, these clinics can be a godsend.

  • Alexandra

    My local grocery store was giving flu shots at it’s pharmacy. I was shopping and decided I would stop and get my shot since I was already there. Well, I filled out the papers and then proceeded to sit for 2 hours until someone could come out and give me my shot. They kept telling me only a few moments longer. All of my frozen food in my cart melted and family members thought I had had an accident or something because I was so late. When they finally got to me for my shot, it took all of 30 seconds. For now on, I will leave the grocery store to do what they do best, sell groceries and get my flu shot from a doctor.

  • Diana

    No clinics in Iowa. Really sad.

  • Elena

    Yes, I have used the Minute Clinic a couple of times and had a very good experience. The only thing I do is to make sure the clinic accept my insurance, as not all of them accepts everything. That is my first question and I walk in. They are very good

  • Kate

    I have taken my son there once, the only problem I had is that most insurances charge much higher copays to visit these clinics vs. your primary care physician, in my case it was $75 vs $25 at my family doc. In an emergency it’s a good option, but not otherwise.

  • JCT

    I went to our local Minute Clinic with a sinus infection. When I finally saw the PA, she asked how long I had felt that way. I told her two days. She told me she would not treat me until I had felt that way for a week! Needless to say, I grabbed my insurance card and told her there was no way she was going to charge me for a visit when she refused to do anything. I went to my dr. the next day and indeed, I did have a sinus infection and they gave me the script.
    Our PA’s at our clinic are very wholistic and want you to treat things naturally and won’t listen to you when you know what it is wrong. Our clinic is extremely frustrating!

  • Napo

    I went once and had a good experience. The 2nd time a different doctor was there. He was wearing his street clothes and had bitten down, really dirty fingernails. Never again!

  • Sylvia Hebel

    Does anyone here see the trend toward :investigation” of these clinics as coming from the disgruntled doctors who are losing patients? I would much rather go to a clinic and be seen by a certified NP who spent time with me and gave me a chance to speak to her/him about my symptoms. My sister almost lost her life at her doctor’s office but did not because the NP there sent her for tests that showed she needed triple bypass surgery on her heart. Her doctor said “I Could have just prescribed something for her. Why did the NP send her for tests.” Clinics are beginning to seem much safer than egotistic doctors.

  • Julia

    I had my flu shot at the Target clinic across the street from my. The nurse practitioner was friendly and the whole thing only took 10 minutes!

  • bobbi

    I have used two different clinics-one, my daughter’s cat bit me and I got a tetnus shot-the other, my youngest son pushed me over when I was kneeling and I had some hip pain-actually pretty bad where I could barely walk-drove over to my local Kroger, nurse gave me a shot and sent me on my way-much relieved. Cheap and fast! Love it!

  • bobbi

    oh, and I am curious about the pink eye-we just called the pediatrician, told them the symptoms, then they would call in a script-they didn’t want an infectious kid rubbing their eyes everywhere…I am in AZ

  • jd in st louis

    beware! i have used the walgreen’s for only one thing. a flu shot this past fall. when i was in the store, i stated that i had anthem insurance and asked how much a flu shot would cost me. the attendant said ‘nothing’. so, i gave my brief medical history and got my shot. two months later, i received a bill for $15 – a copay. it was another month before anthem sent me an EOB stating that i owed the copay. i am refusing to pay the copay based on what i was told by the attendant. i could have gotten the shot ‘really’ for free from the visiting nurse organization.

  • Sara

    These express clinics are for treating things that are common, for example, you can get a rapid strep test, a UTI test, a sprained ankle or an ear infection. If you have a serious concern, of course you should visit your doctor. I work for a world famous clinic in MN and there are 3 express care clinics in the city, including one for employees only, and so fast you can be in and out in a 20 minute break. I’ve heard great things about the non employee clinics as well. Also, if you are a regular patient of said clinic, your doctor gets flagged to follow up with you, and all of your records updated.

  • Janice

    We don’t have retail clinics in the state of Washington. Not totally against or for them. With the already shortage of drs. and the enforcement of ObamCare, it will also be very interesting to see what happens with these clinics. Most people don’t realze that there are things one can do at home in regards to some of the more simpler cases i.e. pink eye, sinus infections, flu. colds that don’t even require a dr. (that’s a better savings). One should wonder about the licensing of these clinics as not all belong to an accredited licensing agency. There is no link to a medical system for the keeping of records. Just a number of things that could be a problem. It does beat the E. R.’s long waiting lines. I understand the cost effectiveness of these clinics though, but am a ittle leary of them. But as I stated, we take care of a lot of the little things right at home.

  • heatherc

    I’ve used the clinic inside Walgreens numerous times. I LOVE them. Fast, efficient, friendly and a follow up call a couple days later!!! I think they are a great option for the routine strep throat that my family seems to get.

  • LM

    I have not been to a minute clinic, but as an ICU RN, I think you are correct in your thought that this is the wave of the future, as there are more doctors and nurses hitting the retirement age and not as many new ones coming in on the scene. Also, with upcoming health care changes, it will be more difficult to get in to see a physician when you are ill and the ER will have to start triaging those who do not need emergent care out and referring them to a urgent care clinic or minute clinic. There is truly much waste of taxpayer funds toward inappropriate ER visits and admissions. As a side note: Encourage others to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they cough, and stay home if you are ill unless you require medical attention. : )