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Walk-In Health Care Clinics Faster, Easier But Raise Concerns

When was the last time you went to see your primary care doctor? For a lot of us, it might have been a while.

Instead, when we get sick, more of us are going to walk-in health care clinics, retail clinics like the ones we find at our local Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy.

In fact, they seem to be popping up everywhere, Banner Health recently announced that they’re opening a string of these retail clinics at three different Safeway grocery stores throughout the state.

The idea is they’re easier, faster and cheaper. But, there are concerns about this trend in health care, as well.

To take a closer look at this, I got a hold of Ateev Mehrotra. He’s an associate professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard’s Medical School and a researcher with the Rand Corporation. He’s studied some of the concerns about retail health clinics, mostly involving the big players, like Minute Clinic and Walgreens Clinics.

First of all, he says these aren’t the same as urgent care clinics or going to the emergency room. They mostly treat for what he calls simple, acute problems — colds, sinus infections, simple rashes, you get the idea. And you’re most likely going to see a nurse practitioner there.

And, he says there are a lot of things behind this trend but we started by talking about price. Are these clinics cheaper than going to get treated elsewhere?

So, what do primary care doctors think about this trend?

The American Academy of Family Physicians has said that patient care suffers when continuity-of-care isn’t maintained.

But Dr. Andrew Carroll, a family physician in Chandler, says doctors like him also need to respond to retail clinics by looking in the mirror. I sat down with him recently to talk more about what he’s done to adapt.

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.