The Geographic Accessibility of Retail Clinics for Underserved Populations

Retail clinics are health clinics located in retail outlets staffed by nurse practitioners, and generally focus on limited health care services such as urgent care and routine preventive screenings. They have been hailed as a resource for the uninsured and underserved because of their transparent prices and their relative low cost compared to hospital emergency care. The extent to which the clinics serve disadvantaged patients, however, and their precise locations across the United States have not been studied. In this analysis, the authors consider the location of retail clinics to determine their proximity to underserved populations. A medically underserved area is designated as such by the federal government. Data were collected from the 2000 U.S. Census and from Health Resources and Service Administration.

Key Findings:

  • The researchers located 930 retail clinics. Eighteen states had no clinics, while 17 states had 25 or more.
  • Compared to areas without retail clinics, those with clinics had a lower percentage of black and Hispanic populations, fewer rental units and lower rates of poverty.

If policy-makers decide that retail clinics are a way to improve health care access then attention should be focused on increasing the number of these clinics in disadvantaged areas.