Using various statistical tools, the researchers found that the standards of care in retail clinics in Minnesota were consistent with accepted medical guidelines for those ailments, including the frequency and type of lab tests performed and drugs prescribed.
Treatment costs at the retail clinics were 30 percent to 40 percent lower than in physicians' offices and urgent care centers, and 80 percent lower than in emergency rooms. The researchers did not detect any significant misdiagnoses, Mehrotra said.
"The increasing number of patients who receive care at retail clinics has fueled concerns about increased health care costs, greater rates of misdiagnosis, overuse of antibiotics, and decreased delivery of preventive care," Mehrotra and colleagues wrote in the study. "When we compared these aspects of care in retail clinics, physician offices, urgent care centers, and emergency departments, we found little evidence to support these concerns."
Dr. Scott D. Hayworth, chief executive officer of Mount Kisco Medical Group in New York, one of the largest medical practices in the Northeast, remains unconvinced and is no fan of the retail clinic model.
For one, physicians provide more comprehensive and expert care, and they know their patients' medical history, he said.
"These [clinics] are clearly picking a few minor ailments, which tend to be less expensive to treat," said Hayworth, who has about 200 physicians on staff as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. "When you have more serious illnesses, you need more back-up," which drives up costs, he added.
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs) are effective in traditional medical settings, where there are always supervising doctors, Hayworth said. Bu
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