March 26, 2013

CVS Minute Clinic: Why Didn't I Go There Sooner?

In last week's post about statins and cholesterol, I mentioned getting a cholesterol checkup at my local CVS "Minute Clinic." It was my first experience with one of these increasingly prevalent clinics, and I gave it 9-out-of-10 points in the satisfaction survey.

Six months ago, I wanted to get a cholesterol check and did what I usually do: schedule it at my internist's office. Here's a comparison of the two experiences.

CVS  Minute  Clinic Visit
While shopping at my local CVS -- just five minutes from my house -- I noticed their Minute Clinic and asked if I could get my cholesterol checked. The nurse practitioner on duty said "yes, easily." It was closing time, so I decided to come back the next day. She advised fasting for at least eight hours before the test.

When I returned, there was no waiting line. It took just a few minutes to enter my information on a kiosk screen, much less paperwork time than is required for a first visit with a new doctor. Moments later, the nurse called me into her office.

She asked a few questions about my health history: Flu shot? Smoking? Taking blood pressure meds? Family history of heart disease? Physical activity? She asked about the purpose of my visit and took my blood pressure and temperature.

She took a small blood sample for the cholesterol test. A few minutes later, she had the results.  

She shared my info for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and the total cholesterol/HDL ratio. Then she explained how my numbers compared with the recommended norms. Of particular interest for me, she shared my Framingham Coronary Heart Disease Risk Score, which indicated a ten percent risk of dying of a heart attack in the next ten years.

Finally, she gave me a three-page printout. The first page had all the information from our interview, vital signs, test results, instructions, and follow-up. The second page provided an interpretation of the test results showing desirable, borderline, and abnormal cholesterol numbers. It included recommended lifestyle changes for achieving better results. The third page provided clear information about cholesterol and its components, the factors that might increase cholesterol, and the risk factors for heart disease. 

The visit took about 30 minutes. I was charged $93, but some of that will be reimbursed by Medicare and my supplemental insurance. I was very favorably impressed!

My Doctor's Office Visit
After going on a Lipitor holiday for a few weeks last fall, I decided to get a cholesterol checkup. I called my internist's office and got an appointment for a few days later. 

His office is ten minutes away -- not bad, but still twice as far as my CVS -- and parking there is more difficult. Since I'm a long-time patient, I didn't have any paperwork. I had told the receptionist I only wanted the test and didn't need to see the doctor. I received the authorization papers to go down the hall to the laboratory for the test.

I waited about 15 minutes before they took the blood sample. My internist called a day or two later with the  results... and a lecture about getting back on Lipitor. 

I was billed later for $52. Medicare and my secondary insurance picked up most of this charge.

Bottom Line
The CVS visit took 30 minutes. I got the results immediately. I came home with a full written report on everything covered in the visit and helpful background information. 

Getting results from the office visit -- from my phone call to make an appointment to the doctor's call with the numbers -- required about four days. I didn't get a written report but had to make notes during the phone call. I didn't get any background information, only a lecture on sticking with Lipitor. In fairness, I'm sure my internist would have taken time with a new patient to explain the numbers and their significance. We've talked about cholesterol many times. 

The CVS visit may end up costing a bit more after the insurance reimbursements come in. 

I was so impressed with the CVS experience that I did some research on these clinics. I'll share those findings tomorrow. 


Deb said...

As always, such great info from you. My husband's most recent blood test (almost 2 months ago) showed high LDL / total cholesterol levels. We're trying to reduce without meds for now - just diet, exercise & red yeast rice supplements. While he will do the appropriate revisits with his doctor, what a great thing to know that CVS can do this cholesterol test - quickly and conveniently! I was hoping there was something out there like this so he can be monitored more frequently as we try to reduce it without prescription drugs (and hopefully eventually no red yeast rice). Thanks to you, I didn't even have to research where to find such a service :)

Susan Carhart said...

Great information. I used them for vaccines I needed but didn't realize I could get a cholesterol test without a prescription. Thanks!