Medical costs for care delivered in retail-based medical clinics, such as MinuteClinic, are between 32 and 35 percent less compared to care delivered in physician offices and urgent care locations according to a new HealthPartners study published in the September/October edition of the health policy journal Health Affairs.

The HealthPartners study, one of the first to analyze cost and care in retail clinics, examined five of the most common conditions seen in MinuteClinics: sore throat, ear infections, sinus infections, pink eye and bladder and kidney infections.

The key findings include:

  • Cost was less. The average cost for an episode of care at a MinuteClinic visit was 32 percent ($51) less than at an urgent care, 35 percent ($55) less than at a physician™s office and 73 percent ($279) less than at an emergency room
  • Use is growing. Visits to MinuteClinics doubled between 2003 and 2006
  • Use was higher for women, healthier patients. Patients seeking care at MinuteClinics have a lower illness burden and tend to be female compared to other healthcare settings

While the study did not focus on quality of care, results show that the number of patients who had two or more visits for a single episode of care was not significantly higher at retail clinics. Study author Marcus Thygeson, M.D., HealthPartners medical director, noted that this finding could suggest that there is no discrepancy in the quality of care.

Retails clinics are convenient and a key question is whether they can provide care that is coordinated which is important to ensure that patients, especially those with chronic illness, are getting the right care at the right time, said Dr. Thygeson.

The study’s executive summary is available at www.healthpartners.com.

About HealthPartners

Founded in 1957, the HealthPartners (www.healthpartners.com) family of healthcare companies serves more than one million medical and dental health plan members nationwide. For the third year in a row, HealthPartners is rated one of the best commercial health plans in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, NCQA’s “America’s Best Health Plans 2007” and is ranked “Highest in Member Satisfaction among Commercial Health Plans in the Minnesota-Wisconsin Region” by J.D. Power and Associates.

HealthPartners
Patricia Lund, 952-883-5308
Mobile: 612-618-1273
patricia.a.lund@healthpartners.com

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