Effect of Retail Clinic Use on Continuity of Care Among Medicare Beneficiaries

J Am Board Fam Med. 2019 Jul-Aug;32(4):531-538. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2019.04.180349.


Purpose: We examined the relationship between retail clinic use and primary care physician (PCP) continuity among Medicare enrollees in the Houston metropolitan area.

Methods: We identified retail clinic providers in the study area using a 2015 health care provider database. Medicare claims data from enrollees who received care from retail clinics in 2015 were compared with propensity score-matched sample of enrollees who received no care from retail clinics.

Results: There were 2.32 retail clinic visits per 1000 beneficiaries in a month. Approximately 1.3% of Medicare beneficiaries used retail clinics. Retail clinic users were more likely to be aged 65 to 74 years, female, White, and Medicaid ineligible. In multivariable analyses with adjustments for covariates, significant predictors of retail clinic use included having ≥3 chronic conditions (Odds Ratio [OR], 1.53 vs no condition), living within 1 mile of a retail clinic (OR, 2.44 vs living ≥5 miles), and having no PCP (OR, 1.11 vs having PCP). Compared with propensity-matched controls, among enrollees with an identified PCP, likelihood of seeing their PCP (OR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.73 to 0.93) and continuity of care was lower (0.75 ± 0.33 vs 0.80 ± 0.31) if they had retail clinic visits.

Conclusions: Retail clinic use was lower in the elderly population compared with the previously published rate in the younger populations. The lower rate of continuity of care observed among retail clinic users is concerning, especially for those with chronic medical conditions.

Keywords: Ambulatory Care; Chronic Disease; Continuity of Patient Care; Medicare; Nurse Practitioner; Patient-Centered Care; Primary Care Physicians; Primary Health Care; Retail Clinic.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Claims, Healthcare / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / trends
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Continuity of Patient Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Office Visits / trends
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States