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Retail health clinics: The pros and cons

January 15, 2016

About the Author

photo of Heidi Godman

Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman


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Stephen Lytle
January 28, 2016

I applaud your article for taking the time to understand the state of retail health as it currently operates in most areas. However, I feel as though you have neglected to address that there are retail health clinics out there that are operating as a primary care model. For example, Walmart Care Clinic, while still in its infancy, is a primary care clinic, which encompasses diagnosis and treatment of chronic and acute illnesses, as well as preventative services, such as immunizations, physicals and additional health screenings. Their expanded scope of services enables them to be a patients primary medical provider. They are staffed by Nurse Practitioners and Medical Assistants who have autonomy to practice, guided by an elevated scope of services and physician oversight. They operate so similar to a primary care model that clinic design, which is built to feel more like an actual medical practice, is one of our biggest differentiators. A typical clinic includes a waiting area, 3 exam rooms, a bathroom, a lab area, and an administrative area. All very reminiscent of a primary care clinic.

Gregory Judd
January 21, 2016

I enjoyed this article on the merits of retail clinics. Three observations:

1) Kudos to you, Heidi, for noting that it is standard operating procedure for clinics to forward a summary of each clinic visit to a visitor’s primary care physician at the visitor’s request (when they have one; studies indicate as many as half of clinic visitors do not have a primary care physician relationship).

Most articles simply recite the cautions of physician association spokespersons on this point. But ask yourself: would your primary care physician routinely forward a summary of your visit to any other clinician at your request? Pro tip: they won’t.

2) Dr. Salamon’s concern that Rx mixups may result from clinic visits presupposes that the typical physician has an accurate, comprehensive list of any patient’s medications. That’s not true.

3) Among the challenges for people interested in making use of retail clinics is simply finding the darn things. They’re not housed in every pharmacy. So I’ve built a simple, free way for people to locate nearby clinics: . Almost 1.5 million people have used Healthcare 311 to locate a nearby clinic.

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