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HealthPartners: Retail Clinics Cut Costs

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The cost of providing care for 5 common conditions appears to about 32% to 35% less in retail clinics than in ordinary doctors’ offices.

Researchers at HealthPartners Inc., Bloomington, Minn., have published those figures in a paper in the September/October issue of the health finance journal Health Affairs.

The researchers looked at care for sore throats, ear infections, sinus infections, pink eye, and bladder and kidney infections at retail clinics operated by MinuteClinic L.L.C., Minneapolis.

Caring for the conditions in emergency rooms cost an average of $382 per episode of care.

The average cost for an episode of MinuteClinic care for the conditions studied was about $103, or 32% less than at an urgent care clinic, 35% less than in a physician’s office and 73% percent less than in an emergency room.

The study did not directly address quality, but the number of patients who started by visiting a retail clinic and went on to have 2 or more visits for a single episode of care was not much higher for the patients who used the retail clinics, the researchers write.


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