Sociodemographic Characteristics of Communities Served by Retail Clinics

Published in: Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, v. 23, no. 1, Jan./Feb. 2010, p. 42-48

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Rena Rudavsky, Ateev Mehrotra

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PURPOSE: As a rapidly growing new health care delivery model in the United States, retail clinics have been the subject of much debate and controversy. Located physically within a retail store, retail clinics provide simple acute and preventive services for a fixed price and without an appointment. Some hope that retail clinics can be a new safety-net provider for the poor and those without a primary care physician. To better understand the potential for retail clinics to achieve this goal, we describe the sociodemographic characteristics of the communities in which they operate. METHODS: The authors created an inventory of all retail clinics in the United States and determined the proportion that are in a health professional shortage area (HPSA). They defined each retail clinic's catchment area as all census blocks that were less than a 5-minute driving distance from the clinic. The authors compared the sociodemographic characteristics of the population within and outside of these retail clinic catchment areas. RESULTS: Of the 982 clinics in 32 states, 88.4% were in an urban area and 12.5% were in an HPSA (20.9% of the US population lives within an HPSA). Compared with the rest of the urban population, the population living within a retail clinic catchment area has a higher median household income ($52,849 vs $46,080), is better educated (32.6% vs 24.9% with a college degree), and is as likely to be uninsured (17.7% vs 17.0%). In a multivariate model, the census block's median household income had the strongest association with whether the census block was in a retail clinic catchment area (odds ratio, 3.63; 95% CI, 3.26-4.05; median income, $54,779 vs <$30,781, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: The authors found that relatively few retail clinics are located in HPSAs and that, compared with the rest of the urban population, the population living in close proximity to a retail clinic has a higher income.

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