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NEW YORK — Retail-based health clinics continue to grow and likely will become a durable part of the healthcare system, according to a report by independent healthcare market research firm Kalorama Information.
The firm estimated retail clinic sales at $733.4 million, an increase of 81% per year since 2005, in its latest report, "Retail Clinics 2011: Market Assessment, Supplier Sales, Key Players and Trends."
"The concept is still novel, it still arouses some fears, but our research finds that the clinics are popular, particularly in drug store settings," stated Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information.
The growth comes despite the recession and at a time when some state legislatures, at the behest of physician lobbies, have passed laws that could curtail retail clinic operations. For example, Florida limits a physician to supervising only one clinic, while North Carolina's law restricts physicians to two supervisees, which could have the same effect. These laws could go to the heart of the retail clinic concept, which is that some cost savings will come from using nurse practitioners instead of physicians.
Massachusetts has regulated what conditions can be treated in clinics and limits immunizations of children to flu shots only. New York State is investigating whether retail clinics steer customers toward the in-store pharmacy, and is among several states considering a ban on tobacco sales where a retail location has a clinic.
"So far the laws that have direct safety implications have passed in a few states," Carlson said. "The very restrictive laws — such as requiring a permit to have a retail clinic, or requiring the clinic to alert a patient's doctor when [he or she visits] — have not passed."
Kalorama suggested that the lack of federal intervention in retail clinics and the failure of more states to pass retail clinic laws are indicators that the clinics right now have not lived up to the fears of opponents. If several cases of negligent care arose that could be tied specifically to the retail clinics' unique business model, it might accelerate legislative action, according to the report.