One in Five Adults Turn to Retail Health Clinics for Treatment, Prevention, and More

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The holiday season has come and gone, but the season of sick is still in full swing. Americans everywhere are battling cold and flu symptoms, and are undoubtedly doing all they can to stave off further illness. For some consumers, this means seeking alternatives to doctors’ offices and hospitals by utilizing retail health clinics.

While these types of clinics have been around for years, they are more readily available than ever. A recent Harris Poll shows nearly one in five U.S. adults (19%) say they have visited a retail health clinic in the last 12 months, either for themselves or a member of their family.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,223 U.S. adults aged 18+ surveyed online between September 19 and October 3, 2016, including 403 who sought medical attention at a retail health clinic in the last 12 months.

Treatment experiences

Most commonly, Americans visit retail health clinics for some kind of treatment (e.g., allergies, colds, fever, headaches/migraines, sinus or ear infection, sore throat, rash, lice, acid reflux, etc.) (53%), followed by a flu vaccine (35%), a health screening (32%), a general health assessment (29%), or a general physical (19%).

Over half of retail health clinic users (53%) purchase a product during or after their visit, including over-the-counter medication (36%), personal care products (27%), food (24%), or household cleaning products (18%).

Patient profiles

Those who visited a retail health clinic in the past 12 months are more likely to be:

  • Men (22% vs. 16% women);
  • 18-44 years of age (26% of 18-34 & 20% of 35-44 vs. 11% of 55-65);
  • Living in a household with children (29% vs. 13% without children);
  • Married (21% vs. 16% not married);
  • Living in an urban setting (26% vs. 16% suburban & 16% rural); and,
  • Hispanic (35% vs. 18% of whites & 15% of Asians).

Millennial patients most frequently seek some type of treatment (49%) at a retail clinic, but are more likely than some older counterparts to seek general physicals (34%), health counseling (19%), and/or travel immunization shots (13%). They are also nearly twice as likely as others to purchase personal care products (49%), food (45%), and/or cleaning supplies (33%) during/after their visits.

Similarly, those in a household with children most likely seek treatment (53%), but are more likely than households without children under 18 to visit retail health clinics for general physicals (27%) and health counseling (15%). These adults are more than twice as likely to be encouraged to purchase a product (71%). Around 4 in 10 purchased over-the-counter medication (45%) and/or personal care products (40%).

Hispanic patients primarily visit health clinics for flu vaccines (45%) and general health assessments (42%). Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) say the visit encouraged a product purchase, with 55% buying over-the-counter medication and 42% purchasing personal care products.

“As the price of health care continues to rise and become more complex, Americans are increasingly seeking easier and more affordable ways to address their everyday health needs and concerns,”said Andrew Mandzy, Director of Strategic Insights for Nielsen’s Health & Wellness Growth & Strategy Practice. “Beyond just flu shots, more and more consumers are turning to in-store retail clinics for wellness management, marking a real growth opportunity for retailers.”  


This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between September 19 and October 3, 2016 among 2,223 adults (aged 18 and over), along with representative oversamples of 441 Hispanic Americans (interviewed in English and Spanish) and 143 Asian Americans (interviewed in English). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #1, January 5, 2017

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll