updated 2/2/2006 4:12:29 PM ET 2006-02-02T21:12:29

What can consumers expect at a retailer-based medical clinic?

  • A waiting list, like a restaurant. Most clinics will have small staffs and take only walk-ins. Some patients will be given a pager in case they want to shop while waiting for their turn.
  • Limited diagnoses. Most clinics will offer immunizations, aid for minor illnesses and screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar — but refer patients elsewhere for follow-up. Some may offer routine physicals, such as those needed for children playing sports.
  • Updated records. Some clinics will track visits in computers and watch for recurrent problems or symptoms of a larger medical issue. The clinics can fax records to primary physicians when necessary.
  • A moderate cost. Most clinics will charge $30 to $70, depending on the condition being treated and the prevailing local rate. Patients with insurance should inquire about putting down only the copay. Most clinics take cash, check or credit card.
  • Limited emergency help. Many clinics won’t have the equipment or staff to handle emergencies, so clinicians are trained to call 911 or refer patients to an emergency room.

The board of the American Academy of Family Practitioners said retail clinics should:

  • Offer a well-defined and limited scope of services.
  • Know when to refer patients to physicians.
  • Maintain formal connections with area doctors to provide continuity of care.
  • Use electronic health record systems to streamline communication with physicians.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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