HCFO-Funded Work on Retail Clinic Utilization Featured in Health Affairs Blog

Publication Date: 
May 23, 2016

Primary care has become a focal point of efforts aimed at improving health outcomes and reducing costs in the health care system. However, the shortage of primary care providers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. In a piece for the Health Affairs Blog, Deborah Bachrach and Jonah Frohlich, Manatt Health, discuss how, in the wake of this shortage, consumers are turning to alternative modes of care, such as retail clinics, for accessible primary care services. They reference findings from a HCFO-funded study from Ateev Mehrotra, Harvard Medical School, that found 58 percent of retail clinics visits were for minor ailments that otherwise would have gone untreated, resulting in an increase in spending of $14 per person per year. They argue that although retail clinics increased costs by creating new utilization, these clinics have a meaningful role to play in improving access to routine primary care for patients with low-acuity conditions, especially for underserved and uninsured individuals. They conclude by noting, “The excess utilization driven by retail clinics would seem to be a tiny price to pay for the increased primary care access they enable.”