Fast, Cheap Health Care

It's happened to all of us. You're hit with something like a sore throat on the weekend or after work, and the doctor's office is closed. These days, help could be as close as your nearest shopping center.

Consumer Reports on Health looks at in-store health clinics-a growing phenomenon.

A doctor is on staff at this drugstore clinic 12 hours a day, seven days a week. No appointments needed.

"They love the convenience of being able to come in, to walk in at any time and be treated instead of having to go to the emergency room and having to wait long hours," said Dr. Maggie Bertish of the Duane Reade Medical Center.

Consumer Reports found that while not all clinics have doctors, you will always be seen by a licensed health professional who has the training to perform tests and prescribe medications.

If you are not covered by insurance, a visit usually runs about $55-$75. And if you do have insurance, most clinics accept it.

Consumer Reports Associate Health Editor Jamie Kopf Hirsh says there has been a dramatic growth in health clinics located in drugstores, supermarkets, and stores like Walmart.

"The key is to go to these types of clinics only for minor, one-time kinds of problems, like bladder or ear infections, rashes or pinkeye," said Kopf Hirsh.

If you have a true emergency, like chest pain or a severe injury, you should be sure to go to a hospital emergency room.

And these facilities are not recommended for children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics "opposes retail-based clinics...for infants, children, and adolescents."

"It's best to ask your pediatrician about where to go for medical care for your child at night or on the weekends," said Kopf Hirsh.

But for adults, the occasional visit to a store clinic can be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Consumer Reports says be sure to bring along a list of any medications or supplements you're taking.

And it's a good idea to ask the clinic to fax a record of your visit to your regular doctor and details on any prescriptions you might have received.

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