Minute clinics or retail clinics are becoming increasingly more popular among many people in our country, even with our elders. For injuries that might not require immediate emergency care, but do need some attention, minute clinics are great for.

With the rise of minute clinics comes many difficult questions. Are they as efficient or safe as a trip to the ER or doctor's office? How does one know when a minute clinic is necessary over the ER (and vice versa)?

What is a Minute Clinic?

You might be wondering what a minute clinic is. If you have ever been into a Walgreens, Walmart or a Target you might have seen little clinics. These are exactly what we are talking about; minute clinics. According to the American Geriatrics Society, the percentage of elderly that are utilizing these minute clinics has gone from 7.5% to 15% in a matter of just three years.

Because of this increase in elderly going to minute clinics, the providers and clinics themselves are trying to cater to the needs of the elderly. This happens when the clinics offer free wellness exams to Medicare participants.

Pros of Minute Clinics

Saves Time

One of the most obvious reasons why someone would want to go to a minute clinic is because it is less time consuming. It might not take just a minute like the name suggests, but it is almost always better than a long wait in the emergency department of the local hospital.

Accepts Medicare/Medicaid

Most retail clinics take Medicare and Medicaid which makes it even better for our elders.

Open Hours

These clinics are typically open 7 days a week including hours in the evening and on the weekends. This is obviously much more convenient as doctor's offices aren't usually open on the weekends.

Cons of Minute Clinics

Quality

Some maybe say that store based clinics don't have the same quality of care as your primary doctor's office.

This might be because these clinics are staffed with a mix of nurse practitioners and physician assistants rather than board certified doctors.

Regular Care

Sometimes elderly may really like the convenience of retail clinics. It is important that this doesn't take the place of the primary care provider. They hold an important role in managing the health and care of elderly patients.

Are Minute Clinics Safe?

Because some people might question the quality of care many might also consider whether or not it is the safest option to go to a minute clinic.

Since the retail clinics are still fairly new it's hard to get a good opinion of them. As far as regulations and care standards not much has been done yet.

When you think about it, the clinics are being set up by larger companies who probably won't promote and open up something that isn't safe for patients and consumers.

What Are Retail Clinics Good For?

Since retail clinics are still a new things, the American Geriatrics Society recommends that elderly still only use them for simple needs like:

  • Minor cuts/burns
  • Cold or flu treatment
  • Ear and sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Regular vaccinations

Things to Remember About Retail Clinics

When visiting a clinic with a loved one or for yourself the AGS suggest you should do a number of things first.

  1. Take a list of current medications with correct dosage information (OTC and prescription)
  2. Notify providers or any allergies or problems with medication
  3. Ask about payment. Most take medicare or medicaid, but some do not.
  4. After the visit request hard copies of all of the papers recorded at the visit and give the clinic permission to send a record to the regular doctor's office.

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