Do in-store clinics stack up?

April 13, 2009 3:58:12 PM PDT
You do not need us to tell you how expensive health care is getting, but there are cheaper ways to feeling better and it may even save you time as well. It's happened to all of us. You're hit with something like a sore throat on the weekend or after work, and the doctor's office is closed. You don't need a hospital for that because help could be as close as your nearest shopping center. Consumer Reports on Health looks at in-store health clinics which are a growing phenomenon.

A doctor is on staff at this drugstore clinic 12 hours a day, seven days a week. No appointment is needed.

"They love the convenience of being able to come in, to walk in at any time and be treated instead of having to go to the emergency room and having to wait long hours," said Dr. Maggie Bertisch.

Consumer Reports found that while not all clinics have doctors, you will always be seen by a licensed health professional who has the training to perform tests and prescribe medications.

If you are not covered by insurance, a visit usually runs about $55 to $75. And if you do have insurance, most clinics accept it.

Consumer Reports associate health editor Jamie Kopf Hirsh says there has been a dramatic growth in health clinics located in drugstores, supermarkets and stores like Wal-Mart.

"The key thing is to go to these types of clinics only for minor, one-time kinds of problems, like bladder or ear infections, rashes or pinkeye," says Kopf Hirsh.

If you have a true emergency, like chest pain or a severe injury, you should be sure to go to a hospital emergency room.

The facilities are not recommended for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics "opposes retail-based clinics for infants, children, and adolescents."

"It's best to ask your pediatrician about where to go for medical care for your child at night or on the weekends," says Kopf Hirsh.

But for adults, the occasional visit to a store clinic can be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Consumer Reports says be sure to bring along a list of any medications or supplements you're taking. It's also a good idea to ask the clinic to fax a record of your visit to your regular doctor and details on any prescriptions you might have received.

But who is treating you? Typically they are nurses or a health care provider that has a state license and usually there is a doctor that can be called for consultations if needed.

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