NEW YORK—Health care provided by retail clinics can be a safe option for older adults for occasional, minor health problems, but should not take the place of an individual’s primary care provider, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and Healthinaging.org report today, in a newly updated consumer tip sheet.
There are now more than 1,400 retail clinics nationwide in pharmacies, supermarkets, and “big box” stores. Between 2006 and 2009, the number of older people using these clinics more than doubled from 7.5 percent to 15 percent.
To help older adults and caregivers understand what role retail clinics can play in their health care, the AGS and Healthinaging.org offer the following tips and information.
Rely on your primary care provider for most of your care.
Retail clinics can’t—and shouldn’t—take the place of an older adult’s primary care provider or medical specialists. Older adults tend to have more health problems, and more complex healthcare needs, than younger adults.
Use retail clinics for occasional, simple health care needs.
The most common health issues retail clinics treat include:
- Routine vaccinations
- Colds and coughs
- Flu symptoms
- Sinus and ear infections
- Strep throat
- Minor burns and sunburns
If you visit a retail clinic, be sure to:
- Bring a complete list of the all medications you’re taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Ask the clinic staff to check the list to make sure these drugs and supplements won’t interact with any new medications they may prescribe.
- Let the clinic staff know if you have had any allergic reactions to any medications you’ve taken, or have had any other problems with medications.
- Give the clinic staff your primary care provider’s name and phone number.
- Request a report from the clinic— before you leave—that includes your diagnosis and follow-up instructions. Share that report with your geriatrician or primary care provider as soon as possible.
What about payments?
Most retail clinics accept private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. They can be a less expensive option for simple treatments such as vaccinations.