July 31, 2006
By Terry J. Soto
A recent WSJ article entitled, The Informed Patient: The New Force In Walk-In Clinics talks about the growing presence of these quick-treatment facilities in supermarket and drug retailers across the country. Interestingly, the concept, common in Latin America, is already appealing to many U.S. Hispanics who lack a primary care physician relationship or, more notably, healthcare insurance.
According to an October 2004 article entitled Trends in Health Insurance Coverage and Access Among Black, Latino and White Americans, 2001-2003, only 67 percent of Hispanics have health insurance, compared to 81 percent of African-Americans and 89 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
This has not gone unnoticed by Hispanic Physician entrepreneur groups, which have been opening and operating clinics in Hispanic neighborhoods for over a decade. The appeal of walk-in clinics among Hispanics is broad, even among those with insurance:
* Walk-in Care - culturally, Hispanics seek medical care as a last resort and typically when symptoms or conditions are serious, so appointment-free care, even with long waits, is preferable.
* Lower Costs - clinics better align with Hispanic communities' incomes and the economic pressures of large families.
* Culturally Relevant Care - Hispanic clinic staff understand that most Hispanics are not oriented towards preventative health maintenance, that they often turn to home remedies or even healers as a first line of treatment and that, typically, seeking out medical care is a last resort.
* They Speak Spanish - probably the biggest draw to neighborhood Hispanic clinics. A recent study indicates that only half of Hispanics understand doctors' instructions after leaving the office and that 50 percent of Hispanics will not go to a doctor because they feel they won't be able to communicate with the doctor or nurses.
It would seem that walk-in clinics would be a natural fit for Hispanics and a huge draw for retailers. After all, these retailers/clinics are already in the community, offer cash-based and insurance-covered services, provide routine care, children and adolescent health services, diagnostic testing and vaccinations. Further, they cost less than half that of a regular doctor's visit and can save equally on other related costs, such as lab services.