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Retail Clinics’ Popularity Grows with Patients, Insurers

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, November 30, 2011

Women were more likely than men to visit a retail clinic. People with incomes of more than $59,000 were also more like likely to use a retail clinic for medical services. That may reflect the adage that time is money. Retail clinics offer walk-in appointments and there is usually no waiting.

One surprising discovery: while conventional wisdom suggests that retail clinics fill unmet demand in areas with a shortage of primary care, RAND researchers found no relationship between the use of the clinics and access to primary care.

There are about 1,200 retail clinics across the country, most are located in suburban and urban settings. According to the report, 2007 was the boom year for retail clinic expansion. There has been little growth since then.

That may change with healthcare reform. As millions of uninsured are set to enter the health insurance market, providers are looking for new ways to control the cost curve. CVS's MinuteClinic and Emory Healthcare just announced a clinical affiliation that will make Emory physicians the medical directors for the 31 MinuteClinics in the metro-Atlanta area. The two will integrate their electronic health records to streamline care coordination.

Of course the big news right now is a memo leaked to National Public Radio that describes Walmart's plans to become "the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation," by expanding its retail clinic presence into diagnostic services and chronic care management. The giant retailer currently operates around 150 clinics but has more than 4,000 Walmart and Sam's Club stores nationwide. Add a health insurance plan to the mix and the mind boggles at the potential.


Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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1 comments on "Retail Clinics’ Popularity Grows with Patients, Insurers"


dtapella (12/2/2011 at 12:54 PM)
Wonder if visits by time-of-day and day-of-the-week would yield any insight into whether visits to retail clinics were in substitution for the ER or Urgent Care, or if it would just create internal bias subject to clinic hours of operation. I'm not aware of any retail clinics with 24-hour operation, but the data for those metrics should be readily available.