Retail clinics are less likely to be located in low-income communities with high rates of uninsured residents than in wealthier, well-insured communities, according to a new study.
The Archives of Internal Medicine study, "The Geographic Accessibility of Retail Clinics for Underserved Populations" compared the location of 930 retail clinics to geographic information contained in the 2000 U.S. Census and 2008 Health Resources and Services Administration data. The comparison found that despite reports indicating placement of retail clinics is determined by needs such as physician shortages and lack of healthcare coverage, most retail clinics tend to be located in more-affluent, better-insured communities.
Counties with retail clinics had lower rates of uninsured individuals, at 12.1% vs. 13.3%, wrote the studys authors, Craig Pollack and Katrina Armstrong of the University of Pennsylvanias Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics in Philadelphia. The authors also noted that underserved African-American and Hispanic communities had less access to nearby retail clinicswhich typically are located inside large chain stores and tend to provide more-affordable treatment of certain acute-care conditions than hospital emergency roomsdespite the fact that nearly one-third of chain stores are located in underserved areas.
If retail clinics are determined to be a valuable and effective source of care, rethinking the distribution of these clinics may be an important avenue for improving their potential societal benefit, the authors concluded.