What is the Doc-in-a-Box Trend

health trendWho would have thought that you could get medical treatment in the same place that you buy your milk, over-the-counter medication and household cleaning products – but it looks like this may be a new health trend.  The Doc In a Box health trend involves medical clinics being housed in retail spaces such as in a drug stores and grocery stores.  These retail medical clinics offer treatment for a variety of health concerns such as treatment for acne, testing for pregnancy and even stitching up wounds.

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Retail medical clinics are popping up everywhere and a study from the RAND Corporation shows that they are attracting the senior population.  Seniors are attending these retail medical clinics for treatment and preventative care mainly in the form of flu shots and other vaccinations.   The researchers found that from 2007 to 2009, the number of retail medical clinics increased four-fold.  During this same time period, the percentage of seniors (patients over 65 years of age) using these clinics increased from 8% to 19%.  A large percentage (44%) of treatment at these clinics was performed on the weekends and after hours when traditional doctor’s offices are closed.  This suggests that many patients, including seniors, are seeking treatment from these retail medical clinics because of convenience.   This finding suggests that this new health trend has focused on the needs of the consumer and this has attracted a number of patients to seek care at an unconventional clinic.

Drawbacks of Retail Medical Clinics as a Health Trend

A drawback that some people state in regards to this growing health trend is that most of these retail medical clinics are not staffed by medical doctors but by nurses and physician’s assistants which limits the treatment that can be provided within these clinics. The quality of care that a patient receives when they seek treatment at a retail medical clinic is also sometimes questioned.  Physicians have expressed their concern over this health trend stating that if patients begin seeking treatment at these retail medical clinics it can disturb the doctor-patient relationship that they have developed and can affect the continuity of care that a patient receives.  As more clinics are offering treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma, the medical doctors concerns have been increasing.   The RAND study found that 60% of patients who sought treatment at a retail medical clinic reported that they did not have a family doctor.  The researchers stated that it is likely that patients that don’t have a strong relationship with a primary health care provider are more likely to seek care at a retail medical clinic compared to those that have strong relationships with their primary health care provider.  While there are a few drawbacks to this type of unconventional treatment, care that is received at retail medical clinics is usually on par with treatment that would be received in a traditional medical clinic.

Is this Health Trend the way of the Future?

Five years ago, it was relatively uncommon to see a retail medical clinic, but now they’re everywhere and it doesn’t seem like this new health trend is going anywhere.  If patients are looking for convenient, after hours treatment and doctors are unwilling to offer this is their offices; these retail medical clinics will probably survive and even thrive.  Consumers do have the right to choose, especially in the United States where many people don’t have healthcare insurance.  Going to a retail medical clinic is substantially cheaper than an emergency room visit and may be much more appealing to these patients.  As long as the treatment provided in these clinics is on par with traditional medical treatment and they are regulated in the same manner that traditional doctor’s offices are, there is no reason why they won’t succeed for years to come.