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October 2006

from the AGS

Safety Tips for Seniors Considering Visits to Retail Medical Clinics

AGS Foundation for Health in Aging Offers Safety Tips for Seniors Considering Visits to Retail Medical Clinics

With the number of retail walk-in clinics in the US expected to double by the end of this year, consumers may be unsure when and if these clinics are a safe bet. Since these "one-stop" clinics sometimes offer services that may be used by older people, it's important for older adults to know when it's probably appropriate to use these clinics and when it's probably best to just walk on by.

"Store-based clinics can be convenient but I have concerns about older patients relying on these clinics for care," says Jane Potter, MD, President of the American Geriatrics Society and Professor and Chief of the Section of Geriatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "Older adults have unique healthcare needs and I'm concerned that staff at these clinics may not always have the geriatrics training or experience necessary to meet these needs on a regular basis."

Since older adults will undoubtedly be customers of the growing number of clinics opening in grocery and drug stores, the American Geriatrics Society's Foundation for Health in Aging offers this advice to help older people determine when it's likely safe to visit, and when it's best to call your doctor or visit the nearest ER instead.


Tell the clinic's health care professional about all of your medical conditions and any allergies or problems you have had with medications.
Bring a complete list of your current medications and ask the health care provider to check this list to be sure these drugs won't interact with any new medications he or she may prescribe.
Get a report from the clinic that includes your diagnosis and follow-up instructions and take that report with you on your next visit to your geriatrician or primary care doctor.

Visit a retail medical clinic if you have a new major symptom such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or swelling in your legs. These symptoms need the immediate attention of your own geriatrician or primary care doctor or ER staff.
Visit one of these clinics if you notice a change with a medical problem that you have had for a long time and that is already being treated by your doctor. You should see your own primary provider for this problem.
Go to a retail medical clinic if you have a cough that has lasted for three or more weeks. This requires special medical attention that most of these smaller clinics cannot handle.
Depend on a retail medical clinic for most of your health care. These clinics are only able to provide a few basic tests and treatments. You need to visit a geriatrician or other primary health care provider that you know and trust for the majority of your health care needs.






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