Characteristics of Patients at Three Free Clinics

This study examined factors associated with the use of three free clinics located in Central Massachusetts. A total of 248 patients completed a questionnaire during the 2-month study period. Descriptive results showed a majority of free clinic patients are low-income, uninsured, and female. Many patients (62%) do not have a usual source of care, nor do they know where to go if the clinic is not open (61%). Most (82%) report using free clinics because they lack insurance. Patients who had been using the free clinics longer than 1 year are more likely to use the clinic because of inadequate insurance (p = 0.002) and as a way to obtain prescription drugs (p < 0.001). Although they serve an important need, free clinics cannot provide comprehensive, continuous care. Efforts to provide health care to the medically underserved must take these findings into consideration if they are to be successful.