Acute visits climb as MinuteClinic preps for rapid growth phase

Retail clinic operator 'will take on added significance'

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Caremark's retail-based clinic operator, MinuteClinic, is experiencing exponential gains in utilization and posted a 22% increase in acute visits during the past year, Larry Merlo, CVS Caremark president and COO, told investors Wednesday during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

The increase, which reflects visits in comparable clinic locations, is especially significant in light of the lack of flu-related illnesses. MinuteClinic currently operates more than 550 clinics in 55 markets and, going forward, its important role in the U.S. healthcare system undoubtedly will grow increasingly vital. "Going forward, MinuteClinic will take on added significance," Merlo told investors. "Think about the growing shortage of the primary care physician population, along with the 32 million uninsured coming online with some type of coverage beginning in 2014."

As previously reported by Drug Store News, MinuteClinic is gearing up to meet the increased demand. The clinic operator plans to open more clinics at a rate of about 100 clinics per year, beginning this year. This growth plan will enable the company to double the number of clinic locations over the next five years. By 2015, MinuteClinic estimated it will operate about 1,060 clinics in 100 markets.

Merlo noted that CVS Caremark expects MinuteClinic to break even at the enterprise level by the end of 2011.

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