NEW YORK — The use of retail-based health clinics increased tenfold between 2007 and 2009, and, if the trends continue, health plans can expect to see a dramatic boost in retail clinic utilization, based on the findings of a new Rand Corp. study.
“It is clear that enrollees are ‘voting with their feet’ and that retail clinics are meeting an unmet need for simple acute care and/or addressing a shortage of traditional healthcare providers,” according to the American Journal of Managed Care, which published the study.
The study examined 2007 to 2009 claims and enrollment data provided by Aetna for their 13.3 million enrollees in 22 markets in which there are retail clinics. Of that number, 3.8 million enrollees made at least one clinic visit between 2007 and 2009.The utilization rate during the study period rose from a monthly rate of 0.6 visits per 1,000 enrollees in January 2007, to 6.5 visits per 1,000 enrollees in December 2009.The study noted that there was a clear seasonal pattern, with spikes in the winter months.
The study identified 11 acute conditions most commonly seen at retail clinics, including upper respiratory infections, sinusitis, influenza and urinary tract infections. Together, these 11 conditions accounted for 88% of acute care visits to retail-based clinics.
The study also identified the strongest predictors of retail clinic usage as being distance (close proximity), age (ages 18 to 44 years; those older than age 65 were excluded), health (no chronic illnesses), income (those from zip codes with median incomes of more than $59,000) and sex (women were more likely to use clinics than men).
“If these trends continue, payers that offer coverage of retail clinic visits can expect to see continued and rapid growth in the use of these clinics,” the American Journal of Managed Care wrote.