Walk into these clinics, and the American health system might be spending more than it had hoped.
The massive growth in the number of retail health clinics may be leading to more overall spending on medical services nationally — despite a belief that those lower-priced facilities would actually cut total health spending, according to new analysis published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.
A key finding in the study is that the clinics have led to increased overall use of medical services, which outweighs the savings that were realized by patients who previously would have gotten care from more expensive providers.
The findings raise the question of whether other convenient, lower-priced options for providing health services, such as "telehealth" and "e-visit" medical consultations, or kiosks offering testing in stores, could also end up leading to overall increases in health spending, despite being touted as cost-savers.
"This convenience could increase spending," said Dr. Ateev Mehrotra of Harvard Medical School, one of the authors of the study, and an adjunct researcher at the Rand Corp.