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Feb 28

What are the Differences Between Primary Care Offices & Retail Clinics?

In 2018, about $2.35 trillion in mergers an acquisitions occurred globally.

Many mergers and acquisitions happened in 2017. CVS finalized plans to acquire Aetna, Amazon proposed buying into the pharmacy sector, and UnitedHealth’s Optum acquired Advisory Board. All of these changes sparked a variety of talks and questions from both companies and consumers. One of these questions, specific to Aetna and CVS merging, is what are retail clinics and how do they differ from primary care practices?

What are retail health clinics?

Retail clinics are generally defined as walk-in clinics housed inside supermarkets, pharmacies, and retail outlets. Target, Walgreens, and CVS usually house these clinics. Nurse practitioners and/or physician assistants typically staff these facilities. Each of these clinics offer different services or treatments for their patients. Some administer vaccines and physicals, while others treat minor injuries and illnesses like strep throat. Typically, retail clinics use the walk-in approach, but some allow appointment scheduling.

What are primary care offices?

Primary care practices are staffed by physicians interested in getting to know you, managing your health, understanding your concerns, and preventing illness. A primary care practice provides a variety of services. This includes vaccinations, physicals, check-ups, screenings for illnesses, blood work, etc. If you require attention from a specialist, your primary care doctor recommends a specialist for treatment. Most primary care offices see patients by appointment only, but some offer walk-in services to current patients.

The difference between retail and primary care

  • Retail clinics are primarily walk-in offices. This makes retail clinics ideal for travelers, and for illness that arrives with no time to schedule an appointment at your primary care doctor’s practice.
  • Primary care doctors know all of your prescriptions, family history, and they pull your personal records when you arrive. Retail clinic, typically, only know the information you provide them with.
  • Retail clinics provide a more effective solution than going to an urgent care clinic, depending on your insurance and when you need treatment. This goes for primary care practices as well, considering closures due to holidays or regular operation hours.
  • Chronic care management needs treated at a primary care office, seeing as retail clinics do not offer these services. Primary care doctors help patients manage their diabetes, asthma, thyroid problems, and other chronic illnesses.

There are obvious differences between retail clinics and primary care practices; however, retaining a primary care doctor and frequenting the same retail clinic, when necessary, isn’t an awful practice. Ask your primary care doctor which local clinic they prefer at your next visit. When you arrive at the recommended  retail clinic, request that they share visit information with your primary care doctor. Establishing a functioning relationship between both your primary care doctor and the retail clinic saves time and prevents error during future visits.

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