Carson Tahoe clinic opens in Walmart on Monday
The Walmart in the Topsy Lane shopping center will open a walk-in clinic on Monday, offering health care options for a select menu of ailments.
The so-called Clinic at Walmart will open at 8 a.m. inside the store at 3770 S. Highway 395 and will offer its services seven days a week. Visitors will need no appointment.
The venture, which is operated by Carson Tahoe Physician Clinics, will treat conditions such as acne, bladder infections, earaches, flu, insect bites and stings, minor wounds, sinus infections and upper respiratory infections, said Richard Lawley, the vice president human resources and support services at Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare. It also will provide camp and school physicals and common vaccinations.
But for people suffering from more serious conditions – things like broken bones, major wounds and chest pains – a trip to an urgent care clinic or the emergency room would be in order.
“We don’t treat serious conditions,” Lawley said of the new retail clinic in Walmart. “There’s a pretty narrow scope that I’ll call narrow acute conditions: Cold, flu, earache, rashes.”
For example, an urgent care clinic, like the Med Direct Urgent Care at 1201 S. Carson St., offers X-rays while the Walmart clinic does not. The urgent care clinic also has a doctor on staff, while the Walmart clinic will usually be staffed by a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.
But the walk-in clinic may take some pressure off Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare’s emergency room. A Rand Corporation study released in September, according to USA Today, found that 17 percent of emergency room visits could have been treated at walk-in clinics and urgent care centers, potentially saving $4.4 billion in health care costs a year.
Lawley said that’s why the clinic could find a new niche in the local health care market, adding the clinic “will do a fair amount of referrals to local physicians.”
“Access to health care continues to be an issue in the market. I guess it’s another piece of the puzzle,” Lawley said, adding, “It is an attempt to address both lifestyle issues and to address people who are again uninsured or underinsured, for these simple acute issues.”
Daniel Spogen, the chairman of the family and community medicine department at the University of Nevada, Reno’s medical school, said there is a growing trend of retail clinics throughout the nation, offering low-cost care for acute problems.
“However, if you had something more complex like diabetes, it really isn’t appropriate for chronic management,” he said.
Spogen said the retail clinics may not necessarily keep people out of the emergency rooms with non-threatening acute illnesses, too.
“They’re not making that connection,” Spogen said, adding he thinks the patient who is more likely to visit the Walmart clinic is “the kind of patient who goes to Walmart looking for an item … and notices this clinic there.”
But because of the convenience, people who may usually put off seeing a doctor may get a condition looked at while they’re shopping.
“The problem is when you’re sick with whatever, as an individual you don’t know where the line is,” he said. “So everybody’s level of concern is different. Some people, they wait until it’s too long when they are really sick and some people jump too quickly.”