Study: Retail clinics to double, save $800M annually by 2015

LAS VEGAS — The number of U.S. retail health clinics is projected to double by 2015 because of the increasing demand of newly insured patients under healthcare reform, according to new a report released on Wednesday by Accenture ACN at the annual America's Health Insurance Plans Institute 2013 conference in Las Vegas.

The report shows that the growing number of retail-based health clinics is expected to drive $800 million in annual cost savings by 2015 and will add capacity for 10.8 million patient visits per year, compared with 5.1 million in 2011. In fact, according to Accenture's analysis, the number of patient visits at retail clinics is projected to account for 10% of non-primary care outpatient visits by the end of 2015.

"Despite that initial growth of retail clinics was halted short of market expectations in 2009, healthcare reform will trigger a significant demand from millions of newly insured patients," Kaveh Safavi, managing director for Accenture's North America health business, said. "The convergence of retail convenience with walk-in care services will provide a 'release valve' for strained health systems as they handle the influx of new patients."

Historically, retail clinics experienced a five-year trend of rapid growth from 2003 to 2008, ranging from 50% to 92% annually during that time. However, growth in the sector stalled, falling to just 2% per year, from 2008 to 2012, the report stated.

According to Accenture's report, the number of retail clinics is expected to increase 20% to 25% per year between now and 2015 and double from 1,418 to 2,868 clinics in that time period.

"Although primary care physicians and hospitals once regarded retail clinics as a business threat, in a post-reform landscape, they are viewed as critical to facilitating future growth," Safavi added. "In fact, retail clinics will reduce capacity constraints by referring lower-acuity patients to clinics while ensuring hospitals have capacity for more complex cases."

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