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Are Retail Clinics Competitors or Potential Partners?

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, April 8, 2013

Tom Charland, CEO of healthcare consulting firm Merchant Medicine and former senior vice president of strategy and business development at CVS's MinuteClinic, says he has "very little patience" for the AAFP's argument and thinks hospitals and physician groups should look at the expansion of retail clinics as a business opportunity rather than market competition.

"I do not see it as a threat to primary care doctors. I deal much more with the urgent care industry. … [That] industry was seeing retail clinics as a threat, but they quickly discovered it was a way of getting more referrals," Charland says.

A hospital and retail clinic can sign a clinical affiliation agreement to form a partnership, Charland explains. "What it boils down to is, the health system provides a collaborating physician for the nurse practitioner, which is required in virtually all states, and the health system or medical group receives preferential referrals for patients who present out of scope."

This type of basic clinical affiliation agreement can be "the basis for a longer-term relationship," Charland says. "It is one strategic alternative that has to be considered. I can tell you that right now the retail clinics are pretty much overwhelmed with calls from hospital systems seeking to partner with them."

In the HealthLeaders Media 2013 CEO Industry Survey: Optimism on the Upswing, 42% of hospital CEOs identified strategic partnerships as one of the top priorities for their organization over the next three years. Forming a joint venture with a retail clinic may be just the kind of opportunity they are seeking, if they can lock down the deal before another hospital in their market beats them to it.

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