Quick Drugstore Clinics Revisited

Do you have a quick health clinic in a drug or big box store near you? They are called Quick Clinics, Redi-Clinics, Minute Clinics or other names, and you can drop in at any time for basic needs such as a bad cough, a sprained ankle, or whatever other “simple” ailments you or your children might have.

They are reviewed in today’s NY Times. Are they a good idea?

I blogged about them a few months ago…. and yes…. for the most part I think they ARE a good idea — but with a few cautions.

But my cautions aren’t those of the NY Times, nor are they the cautions of the American Academy of Family Physicians, or the various State Regulators or the pediatrican groups.

What are the differences?

My cautions are about the patient’s health, and theirs are about money.

I know, I know — if you read this article, or any of a dozen others written on the subject (cited in my previous blog post), the spokespeople for these various organizations will tell you just how concerned they are about the health of the person who gets treated there.

But if you read between the lines? Yeah. They’re worried about money. These clinics cut into their income, pure and simple. A patient has a choice between walking-in (no appointment necessary), waiting 15-20 minutes (instead of who-knows-how-long), being handed his/her prescription on the spot (instead of having to travel to the pharmacy), and paying an average of $18 less than a visit to a traditional doctor’s office. And $18 is $18.

The AMA calls it “sacrificing quality.” Pediatricians cite the need to understand a child’s history. And state authorities are concerned about licensing. But they are really worried about money. Because in the case of these quick clinics, patients are bypassing those died-in-the-wool establishments that justify charging way too much money for way too little service.

All that said — there are some real cautions for patients that have to do with their health — so if you are tempted to use one of these quick clinics, please take note:

  • Remember that these clinics (and therefore the doctor or nurse practitioner who sees you) do not have your records or your history. If you are someone who has had challenges, allergies, or reactions to treatments or symptoms in the past, you’ll want to continue seeing your primary care physician. The clinic provider can’t know what your past history is and could recommend something that makes you even sicker.
  • Remember that these clinics are just as interested in selling you the drugs they have on their shelves as they are making sure you get the right medicine. Your physician will prescribe based on what s/he knows is right. The clinics will prescribe based on the deals they’ve made with pharmaceutical distributors. That may not matter — it might still be the right drug — but it might not.
  • Drug interactions and contra-indications are a real concern. With a pharmacist right there, you should be OK, but make sure you take a master list of everything — EVERYTHING — you take on a regular basis, long or short term, and share it with the practitioner you see. Prescription drugs, yes, but also any pain relievers, vitamins, herbals, etc.
  • Some quick clinics do not accept Medicare or Medicaid, and not all insurance companies will work with them, so ask that question before you see the quick clinic doctor.
  • If, in fact, you are really sicker or hurt beyond what you realize, you don’t want one of these quick clinics recommending the next steps — you want that to come from your primary care doctor — or — your specialist. If you question your situation at all, don’t fool with these quick clinics. You could end up sicker.

A cautionary tale? Yes, but no less enthusiasm for a good idea whose time has come.

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Posted in: Doctor Communication, Health /Medical Consumerism, Health Insurance, Healthcare Quality, Patient Advocacy, Patient Empowerment, Patient Safety, Patient Tools, Pharmaceutical Drugs, Self Help

Leave a Comment (2) ↓


  1. dxunknown August 23, 2007

    While channel surfing the other day, I saw this Botox clinic that was doing business in a shopping mall! I just don’t know if I’m ready to see “quick clinics” at Walmart and if they are injecting botulinum into your face at the mall… it can’t be far off, right?

  2. Bill August 24, 2007

    I think the clinics will fill a great need. I predict many of the illegal aliens will use the clinics, as well as those without health insurance. The illegals are now using the hospital Emergency departments as primary care facilities, and these clinics will be accessable 7 days a week for a nominal fee. They can’t help but be successful. As long as the clinics limit their practice to some of the very common and less serious, acute problems, they will be fine. Chronic illness treatment and followup? No way. Historical records are way too important for management of these problems.