ROCKVILLE, Md. — By their very existence, retail clinics could threaten and/or complement at least six parts of the healthcare system, according to a report from Kalorama Information published Thursday, which placed the number of retail clinics at 2,200 across the U.S. According to the report, the oftentimes one-person operations have had a direct impact on hospitals, doctor's offices, government and private insurance payers, vaccine companies, in vitro diagnostic companies and healthcare IT companies.
"They deliver healthcare to customers where they are, where the rest of the healthcare system awaits patients," stated Bruce Carlson, publisher Kalorama Information. "Ten years ago, the retail clinic concept was novel. Now, it's rare to hear a discussion of healthcare trends that doesn't include these clinics. Everyone is thinking about how they can align to the trend."
Indeed, the retail clinic concept is brought up in nearly every discussion of healthcare, from cost-cutting for governments to methods for better preventive care.
There are five ways Kalorama thinks disruption will happen, the report noted:
- They are a lower cost solution than the emergency room and can be used both to compete for insurance company business with high-cost ERs and also be used by healthcare organizations to reduce the traffic at the ER;
- As 85% of retail clinic patients have a physician that they have seen regularly, they are a potential boon to the doctor's office. They refer patients - even to the point of suggesting the patient obtain a primary care doctor - and don't provide all services;
- They are already a source of focus in the in vitro diagnostics industry, as major IVDs develop testing units for both retail and urgent care clinics;
- They are building consumer awareness and reputation in each additional year of their existence, which is now more than 15 years, with favorable waiting times and hours. As the Kalorama report indicates, high satisfaction ratings are routinely earned; and
- They are at the forefront of electronic medical records and technology in healthcare, introducing EMR, billing innovation and virtual waiting room technology that physician offices are only slowly adopting to.
As an example of companies aligning to the trend, Kalorama noted that some hospitals are founding retail clinics to take pressure off ERs, or to gain patients. Others are developing retail clinic-like policies of hours or appointments. Still others are figuring out how they can gain referrals from the trend, or adjust the care they provide to patients to retail clinic customers.