Retail clinics provide less costly treatment than physician offices or urgent care centers.

Got your attention with that headline, didn’t I?

I confess that I posted only part of a sentence that was the conclusion of a study.

The entire sentence reads, “Retail clinics provide less costly treatment than physician offices or urgent care centers for 3 common illnesses, with no apparent adverse effect on quality of care or delivery of preventive care.”  The three common illnesses referred to are ear infections, sore throats or urinary tract infections.

So what the study showed was that if you have one of those three medical issues the walk-in medical clinic at a retail store is as good as and costs less that the emergency room and urgent care center.  That’s pretty interesting stuff.  But you might have concluded that walk-in medical clinics run by retailers provide better care for ALL routine illnesses if you had read the lead paragraph about the study in the Washington Post article.  Here’s what it said:

Walk-in medical clinics run by CVS, Wal-Mart and other retailers provide care for routine illnesses that is as good as, and costs less than, similar care offered in doctors’ offices, hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers, according to a new Rand Corp. study. The cost savings over emergency rooms, in particular, was quite dramatic.

See the difference?
Anyway, the study is fascinating and deserves media attention because people need to know these things.  But the media should use caution when summarizing medical studies that are limitied in scope.

Here’s the link to the study abstract:  http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/abstract/151/5/321

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