Retail clinics take the wheel as healthcare vehicle

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT The recent report by the National Center for Policy Analysis is yet one more indication of the important role that retail-based health clinics play in today's overburdened healthcare system.

(THE NEWS: New report emphasizes importance of retail clinics, projects growth. For the full story, click here)

It is no secret that the physician shortage and soaring healthcare costs are hampering patients' access to medical care and even prompting some to head to hospital emergency rooms -- a costly and time-consuming alternative. In fact, of the 119 million visits to ERs in a given year, 55% are for non-emergencies.

Since emerging on the scene about 10 years ago, retail-based clinic operators have increasingly proven the important role they play in providing convenient, quality and low-cost health care, and the efforts are not going unnoticed by the medical community and third-party payers.

The estimates, according to consulting firm Deloitte, suggest that the number of clinics could reach 3,200 by 2014. That's an impressive number but the story isn't all about the numbers. Clinic operators have been working to drive clinic utilization and further augment -- not replace -- the medical community and that includes an expansion of services.

The bottom line is that retail-based clinics continue to gain acceptance and their role in today's healthcare system continues to gain acknowledgement.

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