Drugstores and supermarkets like CVS, Walgreens and Target are expanding their walk-in medical clinic throughout the country to meet high public demand. There are several factors driving this new healthcare trend, and relatively little is known about how this will affect patient wellbeing, if at all. Our team of medical malpractice lawyers offers some guidance on how ill patients can best protect themselves.
Nation-wide, there are now about 1,600 walk-in minute clinics – a number that is expected to double within the next three years because of the newly-enacted healthcare program and an increase in public demand. With more people able to afford health insurance, there is an increase in strain on primary care physicians. Experts estimate that by 2020 there will be a shortage of primary care providers numbering around 45,000.
Because of this, patients with minor ailments like ear infections, coughs and colds, or pinkeye, are choosing to stop by a minute-clinic instead of waiting days for an appointment. At the clinic, patients typically sign in using an electronic system (no appointment needed, and no receptionist) and are given a wait time. Once the nurse practitioner calls your name, you walk into a small room and are given an examination.
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Various services can be performed at a minute clinic, including physicals, tests for strep throat, ear infection, and the flu. In recent years, the clinics have expanded their services to screen for and even diagnose chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Practitioners also often administer vaccines or write prescriptions.
Minute clinics are staffed by either nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistance, but there are never doctors on staff. Many are affiliated with specific doctors or hospitals if they need to call someone to consult with a physician.
When to Make a Doctor’s Appointment
Someone who is prescribed many different medications, has a complex medical history, or serious illness, should make an appointment with their physicians. Minute clinics will not accept infants under 18 months or those who clearly need immediate, emergency medical attention. Beyond that, it is up to the discretion of the patient.
They do take most insurance programs, and even for the uninsured, prices are typically listed on company websites or in-store. Various doctors’ groups object to this new growing trend, particularly among pediatrics, which is warning parents not to rely on minute clinics over primary care needs. Medical professionals state that it is wisest to consider minute clinics as supplementary services.
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Recent reports indicate that about half of all minute clinic patients do not have a primary care physician. Several studies indicate that the quality of care provided at these clinics is about equal to what you would receive at a traditional medical office, and can even be less costly. For those looking for convenience and cost-effectiveness, the retail clinics are ideal, but only to an extent. It is best to use your own judgment, and head to an urgent care center when something serious is wrong.
Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on this new healthcare trend and any issues that arise from it. If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a medical mistake or incident of malpractice, contact our firm immediately. Our case reviews are always free of charge and available to injured patients in all 50 states.