It’s a story every Baristaville parent knows: Your child gets the bug that’s zooming around the daycare center or school, and just when they’re feeling better again you’re suddenly under the weather. That’s what happened to me last week, and after a few days of coughing and aching and fevering, I wanted to get checked by a medical professional.
But it can be a pain to get a last-minute appointment with your GP, and anyway I was 99% sure I’d gotten this from my son. All I wanted was to make sure it hadn’t turned into an infection, and maybe get some meds that were tougher than the OTC stuff I’d been using.
So instead of going to my doctor’s office at 36th & Lexington in Manhattan, I went to a CVS MinuteClinic at the corner of Springfield and Morris Avenues in Springfield. It’s only a few minutes from my house in Maplewood, which beats trekking into the city while I’m still feeling sick. In less time than it would have taken me to get to Penn Station, I’d had vital stats taken, tests run, diagnosis delivered, prescription filled, and was back home on the couch drinking tea.
These no-appointment in-store health clinics are part of a growing trend in American health care and aim squarely at a zone in-between illnesses that are too much to handle at home, but maybe too mundane to require a full-on doctor’s exam or ER visit. (In addition to the CVS clinics, select locations of Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and other companies are offering similar services.)
It was easy to see why these clinics are catching on: I entered my basic info into a touchscreen sign-in system, and after about 20 minutes my name came up. A nurse practitioner named Remi brought me into a miniaturized version of a doctor’s office, where she took a quick history of my illness and, since I was a CVS pharmacy customer, checked what medications I was taking. Then I got a basic workup: temperature, blood pressure, pulse, lung sounds, etc., plus some tests specific to my condition (which, in this instance, included a strep swab). After about 10 minutes or so of examination, Remi ruled out strep and bronchitis, confirmed that I had, indeed, caught the virus my son had just run through, and prescribed a little bit of cough medicine and lots of rest.
The upside of visiting a clinic like the MinuteClinic is that you can have an ear infection, pink eye, sore throat, poison ivy, or other low-level problem looked at without an appointment and, in many cases, within your health-insurance plan (be sure to double-check, though). The big downside, of course, is that you typically can’t get an appointment…so on a weekend or busy time of day, be prepared to wait a bit for your 15 minutes of health care. In this instance, I showed up just before the clinic opened on a Sunday morning, and within 10 minutes there were already 4 more people in line behind me. By the time I was done the line had doubled and the area outside the clinic was filled with kids playing on the floor while waiting their turn. The scene was a bit hectic, but the clinic was processing patients at a good clip and sending us all back into our regularly scheduled days.
My whole visit took a little more than half an hour, and while I didn’t see an actual MD, Remi had a white lab coat, a stethoscope, a prescription pad, and clearly knew what she was doing, so I got some much-needed peace of mind without much hassle. The waiting room doesn’t have the amenities of my doctor’s office (only 2 chairs in a narrow space, and no magazines), but it’s not a bad option if you’re looking for a quick way to get a checkup or one of the other basic services provided by the clinic. And when you’re done, you can get some OJ and canned chicken soup at the same place as your anti-biotics.
Have you visited a local mini-clinic for some basic health care needs? What were the pluses and minuses of your experience?