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Visits to Retail Clinics Grew Fourfold from 2007 to 2009, Although Their Share of Overall Outpatient Visits Remains Low

Ateev Mehrotra and Judith R. Lave

This Health Affairs article by Mehrotra and Lave examines the dramatic growth in retail clinic use and how patients and services have changed over time.

A 2008 article by Mehrotra et al. characterized the patient groups and clinical complaints most likely to be seen at retail clinics prior to 2007. This update to that research reveals how patient traits and visit reasons have changed.

Nationally, visits to retail clinics increased fourfold from 2007 to 2009, and shifts in use showed:

  • Patients over the age of 65 increasingly sought care from retail clinics. The proportion of visits made by seniors increased from 7.8% (pre-2007) to 18.9% (2007-2009). Approximately 85% of those visits were for vaccinations.
  • Acute care visits made up a smaller proportion of overall visits, dropping from 78.2% of visits to 52.2%.
  • The proportion of preventive care visits doubled over the same period, from 21.8% of visits to 47.3%.

The changing patient demographics and care needs encountered at retail clinics point to the changing role of retail clinics in the US health care system. This research, funded by CHCF, provides a baseline against which to track the use of retail clinics as implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) proceeds.

Both articles are available free of charge on the Health Affairs site through the External Links below.

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