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Retail clinic access doesn’t reduce ER visits, researchers find

The Annals of Emergency Medicine study analyzed 5 years of data from more than 2,000 emergency departments in 23 states.

A study published this week in Annals of Emergency Medicine found that having retail clinics located near emergency departments doesn’t decrease low-acuity ER visits. The researchers analyzed data for more than 2,000 emergency departments in 23 states between 2007 and 2012 to examine the health behaviors of patients who presented with 11 low-acuity conditions.

In a news release, lead study author Grant Martsolf, PhD, MPH, RN, noted that the finding was surprising. “Retail clinics may emerge as a way to satisfy the growing demand for health care created by people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act, but contrary to our expectations, they do not appear to be leading to meaningful reductions in low-acuity emergency department visits,” he explained. “Although the growth in retail clinics has been significant in recent years, the only decrease in low-acuity visits to emergency departments was seen among patients with private insurance, and that decrease was very small.”

An accompanying editorial in Annals of Emergency Medicine theorizes that while retail clinics increase health care use, they don’t substitute for ER visits. To learn more, read the news release or read the complete study findings.

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