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Retail Medical Clinics See Big Jump In Business

— There's been a big jump in visits to medical clinics inside drug stores and other retailers. A new Rand Corporation study finds nationwide, visits to retail clinics increased by more than 300 percent between 2007 and 2009.

Aired 8/21/12 on KPBS News.

A new Rand Corporation study finds nationwide, visits to retail medical clinics increased by more than 300 percent between 2007 and 2009.

A Rite Aid in Culver City, Calif.
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Above: A Rite Aid in Culver City, Calif.

Retail clinics treat everything from sore throats to bumps and bruises. They offer non-emergency medical care seven days a week with no appointment necessary.

Most of these clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners or physicians assistants, but some have doctors on hand.

Paul Arvanitis owns Doctors Express, a for-profit urgent care clinic in Santee. He said business has been booming since the clinic opened in early 2011.

"I expected a little bit slower upswing, especially in the East County area, and we've experienced actually quite the opposite. We've been able to meet, and exceed actually our projections for the first year," Arvanitis said.

Christine McVey brought her mom to Doctors Express when she couldn't get in to see her regular physician.

"It was close, it's where my mom lives, it was convenient, and she needed to be seen," McVey explained. "We figured we'd come here, instead of a hospital, see what they could do for her here, first."

Paul Arvanitis said the average visit to his clinic costs around $120. The clinic accepts insurance, and offers cash discounts. Arvinitis pointed out they're not trying to put primary care doctors out of business.

"On the contrary," Arvinitis said, "I think we're there in case they're not available, if they're booked solid, when they go on vacations, we're here for them after hours. We're not here to steal patients."

Some analysts predict given the shortage of primary care doctors, retail clinics will see a big influx of patients when health reform fully kicks in 2014.

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