Consumer demand will drive burgeoning retail clinic industry

NEW YORK —Since emerging on the scene in 2000, in-store health clinics have strived to fill a void in today’s health care system—which, on more than one occasion, has been classified as broken by industry observers—by treating common ailments and vaccinations in a convenient, affordable setting, but will that remain the case going forward? Some industry observers believe that it is the consumer who will dictate the future of the convenient care industry.

There is no doubt that today’s health care system is in need of an overhaul as patients battle rising health care costs (which are expected to be $1 for every $5 spent in this country by 2015, according to the Convenient Care Association), long waits to see their primary care provider and an overflowing emergency room where people often wait hours to receive care. Then there are the 47 million patients who are uninsured and another possible 30 million who are underinsured.

Looking to provide patients with convenient, quality and affordable health care, food, drug and mass merchants are increasingly working with clinic operators to implement retail-based clinics. By the end of July 2007, the number of facilities had grown to more than 500. CCA expects that 700 clinics will be in operation by year-end 2007.

Not only are retailers working in partnership with clinic operators, but CVS and Walgreens went as far as to acquire MinuteClinic and Take Care Health Systems, respectively. Obviously, that is a strong testament to the value retailers see in such clinics.

The concept, while still in flux as retailers figure out how best to generate profitable revenues, is attractive to patients as the clinics are open extended hours and weekends, with most visits taking about 15 minutes and requiring no appointment.

They are typically staffed with certified nurse practitioners who provide diagnosis and treatment of common family illnesses, administer vaccinations, perform diagnostic screenings and conduct physical exams. The menu of services generally ranges in price from about $30 to $100, and many major health plans cover the services.

Growth focuses on coastsSource: Drug Store News
StateNo. of clinicsOperator
California15QuickHealth, Sutter Express Care, Lindora Health Clinic
Utah7Medical Marts
Arizona11MediMin, MinuteClinic
New Mexico0NA
North Dakota0NA
South Dakota0NA
Nebraska5Alegent Quick Care
Kansas7Minute Clinic, TakeCare
Texas31MedBasics, MinuteClinic, RediClinic, My Healthy Access
Minnesota48HealthPartners, MinuteClinic, NOW Express Care, Target Clinic, Mayo Albert Lea Medical Center
Iowa5Mercy QuickCare, Trinity Medxpress
Missouri24InstaClinics, MinuteClinic, TakeCare, NOW Express Care
Louisiana5Checkups USA
Wisconsin28Aurora Quick Care, Take Care, Gunderson Lutheran Express Care
Michigan26Affordable Basic Care, MinuteClinic, Early Solutions Clinic
Illinois29InstaClinics, MinuteClinic, TakeCare, Corner Care Clinic
Indiana30Affordable Basic Care, MinuteClinic, MedPoint Express, The Little Clinic, Corner Care Clinic
Kentucky5The Little Clinic
Tennessee18MinuteClinic, Wellspot
Mississippi6Checkups USA
Alabama11Checkups USA, Wellspot
Florida44Checkups USA, MinuteClinic, Solantic, The Little Clinic
Georgia50MinuteClinic, RediClinic, The Little Clinic
South Carolina6Wellspot, Corner Care
North Carolina18MinuteClinic, Corner Care Clinic
West Virginia0NA
Ohio20MinuteClinic, The Little Clinic, Premier HealthNet Express Care, Corner Care Clinic
Maryland13MinuteClinic, My Health Access
Pennsylvania15Geisinger CareWorks, Take Care, Corner Care Clinic
New Jersey15Atlanticare Healthrite, ExpressCare, MinuteClinic, Corner Care Clinic
New York13DR Walk-In Medical Clinics, MinuteClinic, Corner Care Clinic
Connecticut10MinuteClinic, Corner Care Clinic
Rhode Island0NA
New Hampshire0NA

But will the future of health care demand more?

“This is being driven by the consumers,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the CCA, which was founded in October 2006 to support the exploding industry.

Judging by some recent research, consumers not only welcome the convenient care that such clinics provide, but also believe that they should provide a broader array of services.

“I think consumers are savvy in what [the clinics] are or not or what they could be,” Hansen-Turton added.

According to the study released earlier this year by Market Strategies, 30 percent of respondents believe that retail clinics should compete with primary care physicians by offering a broader variety of more complex care and diagnostic services.

The study, which is MSI’s first wave of retail clinic research, featured 1,500 online surveys conducted with people age 21 and older between Feb. 7 and 19. Of those who completed the surveys, 900 had not yet used a retail clinic and 600 had recently visited a clinic.

“I see continued growth, but the one thing that will remain steady is convenience, but offerings will be dependent on the individual operators,” said Hal Rosenbluth, co-founder and chairman of Take Care, who also serves as senior strategy consultant of health care for Walgreens and president of the CCA. “It will depend on the marketplace.”

There already is evidence that the convenient care industry sees a need to branch out beyond acute care. One such example is Lindora Health Clinic, which provides non-emergency health care services and weight-management programs.

Lindora currently operates 35 clinics specializing in the non-surgical treatment of obesity. Last fall, it partnered with Rite Aid to open in Costa Mesa, Calif., the first retail-based clinic. The Lindora Health Clinic focuses on weight loss and wellness services in the Southern California area. It plans on having 10 retail-based locations by the end of the year.

There’s also Early Solutions Clinics, which currently operates about a half dozen clinics within Meijer stores. In addition to focusing on acute care, the company has developed a health promotion disease prevention program, which includes treatment for diabetes, asthma, weight loss and screenings for depression.

Meanwhile, several clinic operators are offering, namely in select markets, travel medicines.

“There are talks about chronic-disease management and health-education services but it is important to look at the limitations,” Hansen-Turton said. “The important aspect is that it needs to be integrated within the medical home.”

Hansen-Turton also believes that the convenient care industry could see more provider demand for additional service offerings going forward, given the shortage of health care providers and the current strain on the health care system.

“If it expands, it will be in partnership with the local medical community,” she said.

She added, “The focus is to have a sustainable model and one that fits in with continuum care…but it is a community that grows quickly but also grows with what the [patient] needs are.”

Rosenbluth noted, “The most important thing is that quality care is provided at all times and the standards that operators have put forward [are followed].”

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