Retail Clinics Help Manage Patient Volume


Flu shots are available during convenient hours at walk-in clinics.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

According to an Accenture Research study conducted this past summer, retail health clinics are set to grow 25-30 percent each year for the next three years. This means that the number of the nation’s 1,400 retail clinics could more than double to over 2,800 by 2016.

This retail clinic growth may help with capacity constraints at primary care providers (PCPs) and hospitals. Accenture predicts that these 2,800 clinics will handle 10.8 million visits per year. If this happens, it’s not only a windfall for clinic operators, but it also will offer a new efficiency to the industry as a whole. The healthcare sector could save approximately $800 million per year in overall healthcare expenditures.

These retail clinics will continue to serve as a great option for uninsured patients as well as those who are on high-deductible plans. Offering care to those who might otherwise forego it spurs revenue generation for the industry by bringing more patients into the system.

Retail Clinics Boost Access to Care

The first U.S. retail medical clinic opened with little fanfare in Minnesota in 2001. Twelve years later, Accenture Research’s study indicates that retail clinics may serve as one of the possible ways to manage new demand for care for the tens of millions of new patients who will be entering the marketplace, likely starting in January 2014. PCPs and hospitals who create relationships with retail clinics such as CVS/Caremark, Walgreens, Minute Clinic and others will be able to refer patients to retail clinics for less complex care.

The evidence is mounting that retail clinics offer cost-effective treatments for patients at convenient locations that are open for longer hours than a PCP’s offices. In turn, retail clinics will be able to refer their patients to PCPs and hospitals for more serious care or emergencies that can’t be handled on site. These partnerships will yield greater continuity of care for patients and their healthcare providers. This network of referrals could also help PCPs focus on more complex care and give them the opportunity to see fewer patients in a more thorough manner.

Forbes Summit Focuses On Walk-In Clinics, Practitioner Shortage

Forbes magazine recently hosted its second annual Forbes Healthcare Summit at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The panel included Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andy Sussman from the US’ largest retail clinic chain, CVS/Caremark; Traver Hutchins of ASAP Urgent Care; Dr. Richard Rothman of The Rothman Institute; and AMA President-elect Dr. Robert Wah. As shown in this video, The panel discussed the rise of walk-in clinics and how they may impact primary care amid the increased need for care and the current doctor shortage.

According to Dr. Sussman, the national shortage in doctors may reach 45,000 by 2020. The discussion between the panelists centers on how the PCP, hospital and walk-in clinics can work together to care for the most patients in the most effective manner.