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Where I think simple doctor visits are heading

So I’ve been dealing with occasional outbursts of hives, and last week I had another episode.

Boy, did I itch.

I know that to figure out the source of anything allergic like this, you need to keep a diary of foods, other items that could be triggering them. This all takes time. (Before someone suggests it, years ago I switched to a detergent free of dyes and perfumes as well as swapped Cetaphil cleansers and moisturizing cream for soap and other products with things that irritated sensitive skin.)

But on this day, I really wanted to scratch that itch. I knew what I needed was something to lessen that itchiness. I knew I couldn’t get into my doctor’s office until the next day, but I needed relief. Now.

So I decided to try one of the Walgreens Healthcare Clinics. I went onto the website and after plugging in my ZIP code, it told me which locations were nearby and what the hours were. I saw I could ask for an appointment, but decided to just wing it.

What a pleasant experience. The waiting room (and later the examining rooms) were clean and orderly. A friendly technician took my information down and shortly after, I saw a certified nurse practitioner. I told her my information, she suggested an antihistamine and getting a (generic) tube of 1 percent hydrocortisone to lessen the itch. She, too, was friendly and encouraged questions.  

A couple days later, I got a call from the clinic, asking how I was doing. (Better, if you were wondering. And now, with an idea on what may be the cause.)

Afterwards I started thinking, I probably experienced where “doctor” visits are heading. For minor ailments, a quick visit to a clinic like this, where you are seeing a certified nurse practitioner, is a convenient and reliable solution. (Before you start emailing me, I know if the hive problem continues and worsens I need to see an allergist.) I got good care and while it isn’t what many consider cheap (in my case it was; my insurance footed the bill like any doctor visit), it was less expensive than seeing my physician. Certainly far less that a trip to the emergency room, where many minor, but bothersome ailments like my hives could end up if one’s physician is not available. Hopefully as more people start using them and more clinics are available, the price per visit will go down. (I should note though, in looking at the services available, it did seem as if some services — such as a glucose reading at $3 — are very affordable.)

I certainly would continue to have a personal physician, but I see a real value for these clinics. (I sure could have used something like this when my boy was young.) They make care available in a way it often wasn’t before. That has to be good.

PHOTO: Courtesy Walgreens