'An added convenience'
Pharmacy chains offer walk-in clinics for quick care

Maybe you have a kid with an earache, maybe you have the sniffles or maybe you're already thinking about this year's flu shot. It could take weeks to get a doctor's appointment, and it's not serious enough to go to the hospital. So, where do you go?

One option is a breed of walk-in clinics offered at retail pharmacy chains, including the three new CVS MinuteClinics in Gwinnett. The new clinics, at CVS stores in Buford, Dacula and Lawrenceville, opened last month and join existing clinics in Norcross and Suwanee.

The clinics' medically trained staff and nurse practitioners offer basic treatment for common family illnesses such as strep throat or ear, eye, sinus, bladder and bronchial infections. Common vaccinations are also offered, including flu, tetanus, pneumonia, MMR, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Metro area MinuteClinic manager Holly Kouts, a family nurse practitioner, said the clinics accept patients daily without an appointment.

"I think there is a real need for clinics like these; it's a wonderful access point," Kouts said. "Understand, we're not trying to take the place of the primary care physician. We're an added convenience."

Because visits generally cost less and offer quicker appointments than many doctor's offices and hospital emergency rooms, Kouts said the MinuteClinics are ideal for professionals and working parents.

During a typical 10- to 15-minute examination, nurse practitioners can quickly diagnose patients and write prescriptions if necessary. Kouts said most treatments cost about $59, and patients can pick up their prescriptions in-house at CVS' pharmacy.

CVS clinics are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Kouts said the clinics accept most insurance carriers and are working to include even more. Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare are just a few of the providers accepted. A complete list is available online at www.minuteclinic.com.

The new MinuteClinic is similar to Walgreens' RediClinics. The RediClinics have the same goal - treating patients quickly and efficiently.

The RediClinics are also open daily and employ nurse practitioners who diagnose and write prescriptions. Most services are offered for $59, similar to the MinuteClinic.

So far, Kouts said, the CVS clinics have been a success.

"We've actually done patient satisfactory surveys, and we've maintained a 98 percent satisfaction rate," Kouts said. "People really seemed pleased with what we offer."

SideBar: At a glance

CVS MinuteClinic locations in Gwinnett County:

1950 Buford Highway, Buford

3027 Jim Moore Road, Dacula

5710 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville

Walgreens RediClinic locations in Gwinnett County:

181 S. Clayton St., Lawrenceville

2990 Five Forks Trickum Road, Lawrenceville

5985 Peachtree Parkway,