The Impact of Retail Clinics

Thursday, June 14th, 2007
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Retail clinics are one of the hottest trends right now in the healthcare industry. Of the 65 healthcare providers that responded to HIN’s e-survey on retail clinics, 58.5 percent of them viewed retail clinics as an opportunity for their businesses rather than a threat. Now that I know a little more about these facilities, I can see why they are so popular and why their numbers are increasing nationwide.

Retail clinics seem to fit in perfectly with the fast-paced society we live in today. Who has time to wait in waiting rooms, only to be called into the examining room to wait some more? After all that waiting, patients are often directed to the pharmacy to fill a prescription. By that time, a valuable morning or afternoon is spent, not to mention a lot of cash.

Retail clinics are the modern man’s (or woman’s) alternative to the traditional doctor’s visit. This culture is all about saving time and saving money—two of retail clinics’ biggest selling points.

However, in a recent HIN e-survey, some providers referred to retail clinics as a “doc-in-a-box,” and raised questions about the quality of care retail clinics can give to patients, saying the nurse practitioners and physician assistants operating such facilities do not have the ongoing relationship that patients are likely to have with their PCPs.

Studies predict that by the end of next year, there will be close to 3,000 retail clinics operating nationwide. In fact, recently, Great-West Healthcare, a national employee benefits provider, has taken on MinuteClinic, the pioneer and largest provider of retail healthcare in the United States, as a participating provider.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to such clinics, from a consumer’s point of view as well as from the healthcare industry. Will this phenomenon continue to catch on with the rest of the country like it has been thus far? Or will people tend to stick to their traditional and familiar means of healthcare? We’ll have to wait and see what 2008 holds for retail clinics.

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