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Many Older Americans Get Care Outside of Doctor's Office, Poll Finds
  • Posted April 10, 2024

Many Older Americans Get Care Outside of Doctor's Office, Poll Finds

Most seniors have embraced “doc-in-a-box” strip mall clinics and urgent care centers as a means of getting prompt medical care, a new poll has found.

About 60% of people ages 50 to 80 have visited an urgent care center or a retail health clinic during the past two years -- even though those sort of options weren't available earlier in their lives.

“The rapid rise in availability of these kinds of clinics, which typically offer walk-in convenience, expanded hours and self-scheduling of appointments in locations close to home, work or shopping, has transformed the American health care landscape in less than two decades,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren, director of the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.

Urgent care centers are the most common alternative source of care for seniors and the middle-aged, with 47% visiting one at least once and 23% going more than once within the past two years.

And 28% said they have gone to a retail health clinic, a same-day office typically located in a strip mall, workplace or vehicle.

Three-quarters of seniors (75%) who have gone to an alternative clinic said they're likely to go again sometime within the next two years, poll results show.

Also, 43% of people who hadn't gotten care at an alternative clinic said they are likely to do so in the next two years.

However, most older adults with a primary care doc said they prefer the quality of care and sense of connection at their regular clinic.

About 52% of those who'd gone to an alternative clinic said the quality of care was better with their regular doc, and 67% said they felt more connection to their primary care doctor.

On the other hand, 43% said the alternative clinic was more convenient than their usual provider.

“With the nationwide shortage of primary care providers, it's important to understand how this age group, with generally higher medical needs, views and uses this type of care,” Kullgren added in a Michigan news release.

Of those who went to an alternative clinic, 44% said they wanted to avoid going to an emergency room and 35% said they needed a vaccine, test or physical exam.

“Access to timely and convenient care was critical for older adults during the pandemic, and our research shows alternative care options will continue to be in demand for the long-term,” said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president and director of AARP Public Policy Institute. The AARP participated in the new survey.

The poll was conducted online and via phone in July and August 2023, among 2,657 adults ages 50 to 80.

More information

Harvard Medical School has more on retail health clinics.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, April 10, 2024

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