How retail health clinics are filling a gap in the nation’s health care delivery system Featured

9:01pm EDT August 31, 2011
How retail health clinics are filling a gap in the nation’s health care delivery system

Patients and parents who have been searching for less expensive, quicker and more convenient alternatives for the treatment of minor ailments and routine health care needs are finding comfort and care in retail health clinics — one of the fastest growing segments of the health care industry.

To learn more, Smart Business turned to Marcia Manker, CEO of Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center and Steve Geidt, CEO of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente.

What is a retail health clinic?

These convenient health care facilities, like MemorialCare’s HealthExpress found in the ALBERTSONS/Savon Pharmacy stores throughout Orange County in Huntington Beach, Irvine and Mission Viejo, treat uncomplicated minor illnesses and injuries and offer preventive services that encourage healthy lifestyles. Providing a convenient health care access point for common health conditions, they’re open seven days a week and staffed by nurse practitioners with close oversight by physicians.

No appointments are necessary, and there is little to no waiting time. Fees are low; and in addition to direct payments, many insurance plans are accepted. The scope of services is limited and not meant to treat complicated cases, or high-risk, unusual or acute conditions.

What services are typically offered?

Clinics like HealthExpress offer walk-in care for common conditions like colds, flu, sore throats, earaches, allergy symptoms, sinus infections, minor wounds and injuries (burns, cuts and bruises, minor puncture wounds and sprains) and skin infections such as acne, athlete’s foot, eczema, insect bites, minor sunburn, shingles and cold and canker sores. Adult and childhood vaccinations are given to prevent the flu, Hepatitis A and B, polio, meningitis, pneumonia, MMR, shingles and tetanus. Responding to the state law requiring whooping cough booster shots for students entering seventh grade or above, MemorialCare HealthExpress has been offering these vaccinations so students can register for school without delays.

Camp, school and sports physicals as well as assessments, screenings and free blood pressure and obesity screenings are also offered.

Why have they emerged?

Retail health clinics are filling a gap in the nation’s health care delivery system as well as responding to a trend in consumer-driven health care. As most consumers are experiencing an increase in out-of-pocket payments for their health care and demand more immediate access for their routine needs, they seek new options for access to care. Retail health clinics attract both the insured and uninsured seeking affordable, immediate health care for minor ailments and common conditions. Busy consumers are turning to retail health clinics as a quick and convenient option for basic medical services.

How do they fit into the continuum of care?

While many retail clinics were launched by corporations and entrepreneurs, more highly regarded health care organizations like MemorialCare Health System are partnering with retailers to meet consumer needs and expand their continuity of care offerings.

Our retail health centers that provide care for children as well as adults in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Mission Viejo, make health care easier for individuals and families, whether they need minor care at a HealthExpress clinic, primary or specialty care with one of our 2,500 MemorialCare physicians, our many outpatient services or acute care in a hospital. These clinics represent another facet of our comprehensive health care in Orange and Los Angeles counties. They also link consumers seeking a health care provider with referrals to affiliated physicians. Each retail health clinic features electronic medical record systems to enhance patient safety by keeping health information secure and allowing medical information to be securely shared with physicians as well as other clinicians.

Together, MemorialCare HealthExpress clinics, physicians and 10,000 employees at our nationally recognized hospitals and outpatient settings offer comprehensive and far-reaching care in order to treat all conditions.

What does the research show?

An online national Harris poll for The Wall Street Journal showed that 92 percent of those who indicated they visited a clinic were satisfied with the convenience, 89 percent were satisfied with the quality of care they received, 88 percent were satisfied with the staff’s qualifications and 80 percent were satisfied with the cost.

What impact do these facilities have on local employers?

Retail health clinics provide an excellent option for a work force seeking easy-to-access and affordable routine care. With minimal waiting time for treatment, these in-store clinics can reduce time away from work, increase your workplace productivity and reduce the employer’s medical and benefit costs.

To further assist local companies in the task of promoting healthier lifestyles for employees and their families, the hospitals of MemorialCare Health System provide educational programs and screenings at the worksite, on the campuses of our medical centers and in locations around the region. Our website (memorialcare.org) offers free online tools, guides and referrals to physicians that can help your work force reach the goal of a healthier life.

Marcia Manker is the CEO of Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center. Steve Geidt is the CEO of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Community Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit memorialcare.org.