The Growth of Retail Clinics

Retail-based health clinics — located inside pharmacies, supermarkets, and big box retailers —are walk-in clinics that provide basic preventive services, such as vaccinations, and diagnose and treat a limited set of simple health ailments, such as strep throat or ear infections. Usually these clinics offer extended evening and weekend business hours, employ lower-cost clinicians (typically nurse practitioners), charge relatively low, fixed prices, and display those prices prominently so that consumers know ahead of time how much each service will cost.

This style of drive-thru healthcare is preferred by millennials. In PHC Healthcare survey release this past spring, states that 34% of millennials preferred care at retail clinics, whereas 25% preferred acute care clinics, compared to only 17 and 14% of baby boomers, respectively. Millennials were significantly less likely (61%) to visit their primary care physician than boomers (80%) or seniors (85%), according to the survey.

The popularity of these clinics is growing and according to a Fierce Healthcare special report there are four lessons that traditional providers can learn from this growing market.

How to provide convenient care

The report cites convenience as the top factor that attracts patients to retail clinics. Many retail clinics offer walk-in care, seven days a week, evenings and holidays and visits generally take 15-20 minutes. Although not all providers can offer patient care round the clock, it may make sense to expand office hours to in order to remain competitive.

How to collaborate

While experts predict that amid increased collaboration within the healthcare industry, hospitals may take an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to retails clinics, the report states.

According to a recent report from the Convenient Care Association, (CCA) as many as 60% of retail clinic patients do not have an established primary care provider. Some providers like Kaiser Permanente are collaborating with retail clinics to bridge that gap. The California-based healthcare provider is staffing San Diego area Target Clinics with licensed nurse practitioners, licensed vocational nurses, and have physicians available by telemedicine consultations, giving local Target guests access to Kaiser Permanente’s health care services.

How to manage population health

Experts predict that retail health clinics, in combination with patient-centered medical homes, will become even more of an institution within the healthcare system when it comes to managing chronic conditions and population health. Even more so than community hospitals, retail clinics are geographically positioned to help patients with health management at the individual level. The CCA states that more than 30% of the U.S. population lives within 10 minutes of a retail clinic.

How to bridge care access gaps

In addition to improving general population health, retail clinics can help hospitals and health systems address healthcare access issues. For example, an April report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noted the clinics can help contribute to a “culture of health” with their low care costs, which average $110 per commercially insured patient, compared to $166 for doctors and $750 for emergency rooms.

To help bridge these gaps long-term, the report states, clinics and other providers must coordinate care in a way that addresses patient access and non-clinical needs.

The retail clinic model could also serve as a solution to the possibility of a primary care shortage.

Read the full special report here.