Clinic growth likely to gain steam amid shift to chronic care services

Retail clinic operator Take Care Clinics, which is owned by Walgreens, is expanding the scope of services within its 300-plus clinics to include management for such chronic conditions as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and asthma, as well as additional preventive health services.

Game on! With the increasing shift to chronic care services, expect retail clinics to ramp up even quicker, creating new, more profitable revenue streams and filling huge gaps in care that save payers some serious money. The writing isn't just on the wall. It's printed in big, bold colors like graffiti on a 1970's New York City subway car.

Retail-based health clinics have already been experiencing a ramp up in visits and the ramp up is likely to gain additional steam. As previously reported by Drug Store News, a Rand Corp. study found that visits to retail medical clinics increased four-fold from 2007 to 2009, with the proportion of patients older than 65 years of age growing from 8% to 19% of all visits during this period. Visits to retail clinics reached 5.97 million in 2009, up from 1.48 million in 2007.

According to the study, the proportion of retail clinic visits made for acute medical problems dropped from 78% to 51%, and there was a corresponding increase in visits for preventive care, making up more than 47% of visits by 2009.

Researchers also noted that retail clinics have started promoting new services such as caring for chronic illnesses, including diabetes, and that if demand for primary medical care drives longer wait times to see a physician — like it has following healthcare reform in Massachusetts — then retail clinics could see even greater demand going forward.

In addition to Take Care Clinics, MinuteClinic has also been working to expand its focus beyond acute ailments and, through its expanded collaboration with Caremark, is proving to be an important “integration sweet spot” for the entire CVS Caremark enterprise. 

Non-acute care is MinuteClinic’s fastest-growing segment, due in large part to the rise in chronic diseases and the primary care physician shortage that is plaguing the nation. The company has stated that it expects non-acute visits and non-flu vaccinations to reach 25% of its services over the next five years.

As we stated earlier … game on!

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