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NPs Lower Costs at Retail Health Clinics

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, November 12, 2013

Nurse practitioners at retail clinics provide high-quality, low-cost care, research shows, but the savings for operators could be even greater if scope-of-practice restrictions were lifted.

It's a familiar scene to busy parents: You've got errands to run, dinner to make, and a kid with a sore throat and fever. You know that even if you could manage to land a last-minute appointment with the pediatrician, you'd be stuck waiting for the doctor for at least an hour once you get there.

With your child's fever rising, that retail clinic at your local big box store starts to look like a great idea. And there's a bonus: There's a pharmacy there, too.

Over the past decade and a half, the use of retail clinics has risen quickly. A study released last week by the Center for Studying Health System Change and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that in 2010, an estimated 4.1 million American families reported using retail clinics in the previous 12 months, compared to 1.7 million families in 2007.

And according to a separate study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative and appearing in the November issue of Health Affairs, nurse practitioners who work in these clinics can provide high-quality, lower-cost care.

Lower Costs
Researchers found that "visits to retail clinics were associated with lower costs per episode, compared to episodes of care that did not begin with a retail clinic visit." Those costs were lower when NPs practiced independently, the study said.

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