Alternative sites for health care, including retail clinics and urgent care centers, could alleviate unnecessary emergency department overcrowding and save the health care system billions of dollars, according to new research published in the September issue of Health Affairs. The research shows between 13.7 and 27.1 percent of emergency department visits, or up to one in four visits, could take place at retail clinics or urgent care centers, with a potential cost savings of $4.4 billion annually. According to the research, retail clinics, such as Take Care Clinics located at select Walgreens drugstores, have also been shown to save patients $279-$460 a visit compared with emergency department costs.
Patients are increasingly looking for alternative health care options. A second study published in the September issue of Health Affairs found only 42 percent of the 354 million annual visits for acute care are made to patients’ personal physicians. As the physician shortage increases, retail clinics have the capability to alleviate some of the pressure by treating more patients in nonemergency situations, at a lower cost than other settings, while also helping to advocate for patients who need to be connected to the health care system.
“This research reaffirms the need for alternative sites of care to help ease the pressure of overcrowded emergency departments and long wait times that are often necessary to get an appointment with patients’ primary care providers,” said Hal F. Rosenbluth, Walgreens senior vice president, president of Walgreens Health and Wellness division and co-founder of Take Care Health Systems. “The fact that $4.4 billion could be saved by utilizing options like Take Care Clinics and other retail and urgent care clinics is a wakeup call to patients, employers and health plans that money spent on health care can be better allocated to help ease the pressure on an already burdened system. We have always believed that Take Care Clinics were an important part of the solution to the health care crisis in the U.S., but this research, along with Take Care Clinics’ record of highquality care, makes this point more poignantly than ever.”
In August 2010, Retail Clinician published a report from Gallup highlighting the patient experience at Take Care Clinics. Of note was Take Care Clinics’ ranking in the top 10 percent of all organizations Gallup measures globally in engaging patients and customers. In addition, Gallup found that nine out of every 10 patients strongly feel that the nurse practitioner or physician assistant spends enough time with them during a Take Care Clinic visit. A similar number strongly feels that the nurse practitioner or physician assistant carefully listens to them and explains things in a way that is easy to understand.
“Take Care Clinics were designed to offer patients high-quality care in a simple and easy fashion,” said Sandra F. Ryan, RN, MSN, CPNP, FAANP and chief nurse practitioner officer for Take Care Health Systems. “We are playing an integral role in health care reform by providing an entry into the health care system for many Americans through both our retail clinics as well as our worksite health centers. By offering quality health care where people live and work, Take Care Health Systems is improving the lives of our patients, connecting them within the existing health care community and reducing the burden on the health care system as a whole. This trend could continue as health plans and employers explore ways to encourage patients to utilize retail clinics more frequently instead of making trips to the emergency department.”
Take Care Clinics are walkin, professional health care centers located at select Walgreens drugstores across the country. Board-certified family nurse practitioners and physician assistants treat patients 18 months and older, focusing on the prevention, treatment and management of common illnesses. Take Care Clinics are open seven days a week, with extended evening and weekend hours. To date, Take Care Clinics have treated more than 3.5 million patients nationwide. Take Care Health Providers encourage all patients to have a health care home, a practitioner they see routinely for on-going medical needs and routine exams.