Many Americans Turning To Pharmacy Clinics For Minor Health Issues

 SPECIAL REPORT—Catching on in times of economic strain and need for convenience, drugstore chains are one-by-one adding health clinics created to quickly diagnose and treat minor ailments, along with offering lab services, vaccines and the ability to quickly prescribed and dispense medications.


Similarly structured to “urgent care” facilities, many of these pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens see a lucrative need for inexpensive and convenient healthcare, especially for those who have no health insurance and must pay out-of-pocket.  The offering of such services also helps insure that those having medicine prescribed are likely to have their medications dispensed on-site.


Utilizing the role of the nurse practitioner, these pharmacy clinics can offer customers many non-emergency care services that a primary physician can, while reducing the time it takes for a patient to schedule an appointment, take a “work-in” time and travel to their nearest pharmacy for the medication. Since patients are likely to travel to a nearby pharmacy anyway, there are benefits to this shortcut to feeling better.


While some physicians can view these clinics as competition, others see the clinics as a means to defer less serious medical problems such as sinus infections, strep throat, colds or influenza to maximize scheduling of more serious health conditions.


CVS Pharmacy’s MinuteClinic treats family members from the age of 18 months and older (24 months and older in Massachusetts). While these clinics accept most major insurers, the popularity has grown among those who are unable to afford their own health insurance coverage and pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are able to minimize costs. CVS offers their treatment costs online listing allergy or bronchitis treatment for $62, flu diagnosis for $102, and a number of vaccines.


On March 31, 2009, Walgreens and Take Care Health Systems began offering free healthcare services for families that suffer job loss and have no health insurance. These free services include respiratory illnesses, seasonal allergies, urinary tract infections, pink eye and a number of skin conditions. Under the Take Care Recovery Plan, patients can access clinical care and receive free laboratory testing services from Quest Diagnostics.


A person qualifies for the health services if they have lost their job on or after March 31 and presently have no health insurance. Walgreens also offers the same free care for spouses, same-sex domestic partners or minor children.  Those who find employment before the end of 2009 no longer qualify nor do their dependents.  See www.takecarehealth.com for more details.


CVS MinuteClinic information is available online at www.minuteclinic.com.


Such clinics, however, are not equipped to handle every type of medical health issue and emergency services are best directed to the emergency department at your local hospital for proper care.