All signs point to growth for convenient care industry

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — In recent months there have been a string of key milestones within the convenient care industry, and now the new Rand Corp. study indicates that clinic usage climbed tenfold between 2007 and 2009 — impressive growth and a clear message that retail-based health clinics are a significant player within the U.S. healthcare system.

(THE NEWS: Study: Retail clinic usage rose tenfold from 2007 to 2009. For the full story, click here.)

As the article states, the study examined 2007 to 2009 claims and enrollment data provided by Aetna for its 13.3 million enrollees in 22 markets in which there are retail clinics. Of that number, 3.8 million enrollees made at least one clinic visit between 2007 and 2009. The utilization rate during the study period rose from a monthly rate of 0.6 visits per 1,000 enrollees in January 2007, to 6.5 visits per 1,000 enrollees in December 2009.

Among the key predictors of clinic usage: convenience, age and income. Those enrollees who live close to a retail clinic, are between 18 and 44 years old, and have a higher income are more likely to use a retail clinic.

It also is important to note that the American Journal of Managed Care, which published the study, stated that if the trends within the convenient care industry continue, then health plans can expect to see a dramatic increase in clinic usage.

In fact, just within the past week or so, CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic has announced that it now is a provider with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. Furthermore, during the third quarter, MinuteClinic entered its 11th clinical affiliation and, on Nov. 21, announced an affiliation with Emory Healthcare in the Atlanta metro area. Oh, and don’t forget that MinuteClinic has surpassed its 10 millionth patient visit since its inception.

All of these factors, in addition to other developments within the industry, undoubtedly point to growth for the convenient care industry.

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