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Feb 28

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

In 2018, about $2.35 trillion in healthcare mergers and 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 is a retail health clinic?

A retail health clinic is generally defined as a walk-in clinic housed inside a supermarket, pharmacy, and/or retail outlet. Target, Walgreens, and CVS usually house these types of clinics. Nurse practitioners and/or physician assistants typically staff these facilities. Each of these clinics offer different services or treatments for their patients. Some retail health clinics administer vaccines and physicals, while others treat minor injuries and illnesses like strep throat. Typically, a retail clinic uses the walk-in approach, but some allow appointment scheduling.

What is a primary care clinic?

A primary care clinic is staffed by physicians interested in getting to know you, managing your health, understanding your concerns, and preventing illness. A PC 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 PCP recommends a specialist for treatment. Most primary care clinics see patients by appointment only, but some offer walk-in services to current patients.

The difference between a retail health clinic and a primary care clinic

  • 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 PCP’s practice.
  • PC 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 PC 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. PC 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 PC doctor and frequenting the same retail clinic, when necessary, isn’t an awful practice. Ask your PC 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 PCP and the retail clinic saves time and prevents error during future visits.

Looking for information on software solutions for your clinic? Visit our website at or call us at 1-800-624-8832 for more information on getting started.

About the author,
Savanna Adams

Savanna is the Marketing Communication Specialist at Henry Schein MicroMD. She schedules emails to clients, prospects, and VARs, manages social media accounts, performs research, writes blogs and eBooks, and much more while helping to support the simple yet powerful MicroMD solutions.

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  1. Alice Carroll
    July 28, 2020 at 3:37 am · Reply

    Thanks for pointing out that having a primary care doctor means will have access to a good amount of my medical records. I’ve been having a lot of shortness of breath lately and it might be due to my weak lungs from being asthmatic as a child. Either way, I think I will need to have more frequent checkups from now on considering that I’m no longer in the prime of my life.

  2. Suburban Wellness Healthcare
    November 11, 2020 at 6:49 am · Reply

    Very well written. Absolutely apt for the present day. Well done!
    Great post. Is likely to be back for more quality information.

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