3 trends driving retail health clinic expansion

Retail health clinics are a new healthcare delivery trend quickly picking up steam across the country, the Washington Post reports.

Walk-in retail clinics only date back about 14 years, according to the article, but after slow growth, management consulting firm Accenture predicts retail clinic numbers will almost double to nearly 3,000 by 2015. Several industry trends will drive the increase, according to the article, including:

  1. The doctor shortage, which industry experts expect will create a 45,000 primary care provider deficit by 2020. The increasing number of insured people under the Affordable Care Act will add to the problem, according to the Post. "[The shortage is] a strong driver of retail clinics," Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., of the RAND Corporation, told the Post. "If your primary care provider says you can have an appointment in three days, and you're worried about a urinary tract infection or your daughter has an ear infection, the retail clinics are going to benefit from that."

  2. Quality care at lower prices. A study by Mehrotra and colleagues in 2009 found treatment for three common conditions--pharyngitis, urinary tract infections and middle-ear inflammations--was similar at retail clinics, physicians' offices and urgent care centers. Patient cost per episode averaged $110 at retail clinics, compared to $156 at urgent care centers, $166 at doctors' offices and $570 in the emergency room, according to the article.

  3. Clinics are ahead of the curve on price transparency. Unlike a primary-care doctor, if consumers want to comparison shop at retail clinics, "the price is just out there on a giant board," Ceci Connolly, managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute, told the Post. Since many consumers buy higher-deductible insurance, she said, "they are looking for those alternatives to hospital or physician's office visits that are going to be more cost-effective and convenient.

A recent PwC survey found retail clinics are increasingly popular in the United States due to a combination of cost and convenience, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the article 
- read the study