NP employment growth likely as retail clinics gain popularity

Cost savings make retail clinics attractive

NEW YORK — Convenience and cost savings offered by retail-based health clinics are attractive to urban patients. Given sufficient cost savings, those urban patients are likely to seek care at such facilities, causing possible further growth and employment opportunities for nurse practitioners in these clinics, according to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

The research noted that the widening gap between the demand for primary care services and the supply of primary care doctors — further exacerbated by the some 30 million people who currently are uninsured who will gain healthcare coverage due to healthcare reform — stands to benefit the convenient care industry.

"By providing alternative means for access to minor acute care services, retail clinics can not only be a remedy for primary care physician shortage and a viable access point for the uninsured, but also offer convenience for the insured," stated authors Arif Ahmed, assistant professor of Health Administration at the Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Jack Fincham, professor of Pharmacy Practice and Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy.

The results are based on an analysis of 383 metropolitan statistical area residents of Georgia. The respondents predominately were white (71.8%) and female (67.4%), with a mean age of 48.86 years.

The number of clinics undoubtedly has grown since emerging on the scene in 2000, and today there are more than 1,200 clinics. More recently, there's been an expansion of scope of services provided by many retail-based clinics. Yet, researchers noted that there still is "tremendous opportunity" for further growth.

"Despite the rapid growth, the model of retail clinics is still evolving and provides a tremendous opportunity for growth for nurse practitioners because the profession can play a major role in shaping the future of this industry in the United States," the authors of the study stated. "Although most retail clinics have referral arrangements with physicians or clinics, retail clinics can be made part of the local system of care through appropriate partnerships."

The study reiterated that time and cost savings, the two key attributes of retail clinics, are important factors in patient satisfaction. According to the study, respondents would seek care if the cost was less than $178.64; a cost savings of $30.21 would be required for them to seek care from an NP at a retail clinic rather than a physician at a private office and a cost savings of $83.20 would be required for them to choose to wait one day or more. Furthermore, the willingness to pay for the convenience feature of retail clinics (same-day care) was more than two times larger than the willingness to pay for care from a physician.

"These results bode very well for retail clinics as an alternative delivery point for limited primary care services and the growth of professions like nurse practitioners who typically staff retail clinics," the authors stated. "Expansion of the retail clinic market will not only expand the practice/employment opportunities for nurse practitioners, it will also increase their interaction with the public and likely enhance appreciation and acceptance of nurse practitioners as primary care providers."

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