These are useful little low-end, minimal-service medical clinics staffed by Nurse Practitioners inside some (not all) CVS pharmacies. They’re not full-service Emergency Rooms, nor are they Urgent Care clinics. For the most part, Minute Clinic staff can diagnose and treat simple ailments and injuries such as strep throat, bladder infection, sprained ankles, and poison ivy. Minute Clinics also offer common vaccines such as flu shots, pertussis vaccines, and hepatitis vaccines. (Though frankly, you can get most of these at any U.S. chain pharmacy during operating hours.)
What I like about Minute Clinics is the convenience–they’re open on nights and weekends. CVS pharmacies tend to pop up in strip malls near major tourist areas. Currently they’re available in 25 of the 50 U.S. states, and the reps at BlogHer 2011 tell me that they’re more than doubling their number of clinics in the next year.
More important for travelers with pain and disability, Minute Clinics provide routine tests and lab work for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. They accept most major health insurance plans for U.S. customers, and the prices aren’t totally outrageous for international and uninsured visitors.
Yes, if you’re from a country with a universal health system, it’s going to be a shock to pay $100 for a simple blood test. Trust me when I tell you that compared to an E.R. or urgent care clinic, that’s reasonable. Really. Sigh.
So if you’re on the road in unfamiliar territory and you need minor medical help, or feel like your condition may be starting to flare and want a fast test, locate a CVS and see if they’ve got a Minute Clinic in-house. If they do, you can get your test or your script for antibiotics quickly (and fill it right there), and hopefully take minimal time out of your trip to deal with your health.