Comparing Retail Clinics With Other Sites of Care: A Systematic Review of Cost, Quality, and Patient Satisfaction

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Background:Retail clinics, also referred to as walk-in or convenient care clinics, share common features such as a limited menu of primary care services, on-demand patient appointments, greater use of nonphysician providers such as nurse practitioners, and more convenient hours and access points for patients.Objectives:Given their rising popularity as an alternative primary care delivery site, it is important to examine retail clinics’ impact on patient outcomes. This study’s aim was to systematically review the extant literature on retail clinics in the United States with respect to 3 outcomes of interest: quality, cost, and patient satisfaction.Research Design:A systematic search of 4 databases was done using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. Studies needed to be empirical, measure care in retail, walk-in, or convenient care clinic, and present quality, cost, and/or satisfaction findings.Measures:The majority of studies used commercial, administrative claims databases to procure patient outcome data (n=9). Nine of the 15 studies examined costs, 6 examined quality, and only 1 examined patient satisfaction.Results:Overall, retail clinic care compares favorably with similar care in other settings in terms of lower costs, although the evidence on quality and patient satisfaction is minimal and less conclusive.Conclusions:Future research on retail clinic care requires more rigorous study designs, richer quality measures, inclusion of the patient experience in outcomes, less reliance on administrative claims data, and greater independence from industry stakeholders with interest in seeing the retail clinic model grow.

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