The Medical Value Menu

Sophie Quinton tracks the rise of retail walk-in clinics, which feature transparent prices and fast, inexpensive services:

Care at a retail clinic “is about 30 to 40 percent cheaper on a per-visit basis than care at a doctor’s office, and 80 percent lower, on average, than the care at an emergency department visit,” says Ateev Mehrota, policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. A flu shot given by a nurse is cheaper than one given by a doctor, even though it’s the same injection.

For store chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Target, retail clinics aren’t a big moneymaker. But they do draw in customers who might make other purchases. In the same way, hospital systems and medical groups have opened or partnered with retail clinics in order to draw new patients into their networks. “You’ve got commercial health insurance plans racing against hospitals to control the front door,” says Paul Keckley, executive director for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. “The front door is primary care.”

Michelle Andrews covers another medical trend, group appointments:

In recent years, a growing number of doctors have begun holding group appointments — seeing up to a dozen patients with similar medical concerns all at once. … Some of the most successful shared appointments bring together patients with the same chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. For example, in a diabetes group visit, a doctor might ask everyone to remove their shoes so he can examine their feet for sores or signs of infection, among other things. A typical session lasts up to two hours. In addition to answering questions and examining patients, the doctor often leads a discussion, often assisted by a nurse.