Press Release

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August 15, 2012

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
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From Health Affairs


New Study Finds Fourfold Increase To Retail Clinics Between 2007 And 2009


Bethesda, MD -- Since they began appearing in 2000, retail clinics have become a regular fixture in many American pharmacies, supermarkets, and shopping malls. Although some professional medical organizations have spoken out against them, consumers have appreciated the convenience they offer. A new study, released today as a Web First by Health Affairs, shows that the number of patient visits grew from 1.48 million in 2006 to 5.97 million in 2009. This is a follow-up to an earlier Health Affairs study about retail clinics by the same authors.


Visits To Retail Clinics Grew Fourfold From 2007 To 2009, Although Their Share Of Overall Outpatient Visits Remains Low


By Ateev Mehrotra and Judith R. Lave


Mehrotra is a policy analyst at the RAND Corporation as well as on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Lave is a professor of economics in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Health Policy and Management.


This study, which will also appear in the journal’s September issue, was supported by the California HealthCare Foundation.


The following information was obtained from deidentified clinic data for 2007–09 from MinuteClinic, Take Care, and Little Clinic, the three largest US retail clinic operators, representing 81 percent of the industry. Some of the key findings include:

  • Nearly two thirds of retail clinic customers (64.5) do not have a primary care physician; that number increased slightly when compared to the 2000–06 data (61.3 percent). The vast majority of clients (70.5 percent) have insurance (commercial, Medicare, or Medicaid), an increase over 2000–06 (67.1 percent).

  • There was great seasonal variation in the number of visits, with peaks in October and November, primarily because of visits for flu vaccines.

  • A total of 44.4 percent of retail clinic visits occurred when physicians’ offices were likely to be closed, such as weekday evenings or weekends.

  • Comparing the current data with information the authors gathered in their earlier study, the authors found that the proportion of visits made by children under 18 decreased from 26.8 percent during 2000–06 to 22.2 percent during 2007–09. The number of visits by those 65 and older nearly doubled, going from 7.5 percent during 2000–06 to 14.7 percent during 2007–09.

  • The reasons for visits to retail clinics changed in the intervening years. During 2000–06, 21.8 percent of visits were for preventive care; that more than doubled during 2007–09, to 47.5 percent. Then percentage of visits for vaccines alone also more than doubled from 19.7 percent in the earlier period to 40.8 percent in the more recent years.

“The clinics continue to provide mostly simple acute and preventive care, and they continue to serve a population of patients who do not report having a primary care physician,” concluded the authors. “It will be interesting to track demand at retail clinics after the Affordable Care Act is implemented…if wait times for appointments with primary care physicians increase nationwide, demand for the clinics might increase.”

About Health Affairs

Health Affairs is the leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Published by Project HOPE, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published periodically and health policy briefs published twice monthly at You can also find the journal on Facebook and Twitter. Read daily perspectives on Health Affairs Blog. Download weekly Narrative Matters podcasts on iTunes.

The full text of each Health Affairs Web First paper is available free of charge to all Web-site visitors for a two-week period following posting, after which it switches to pay-per-view for nonsubscribers. Web First papers are supported in part by a grant from The Commonwealth Fund.