Consumers turn to retail clinics for convenience, affordability

Image provided by PwC's Health Research InstituteMore than ever before, patients are choosing retail clinics for care instead of traditional hospital and physician practice services based on cost and convience, according to a survey from PwC's Health Research Institute.        

Twenty-three percent of respondents sought healthcare treatment in a retail clinic, and 73 percent of them would use that service again, according to an informational graphic (pictured right) provided by PwC's Health Research Institute. The number of people using retail clinics tripled from 2007, when just 9.7 percent used that service, according to another HRI survey of more than 1,000 consumers.  

The trend is a result of what patients want to see--more convenient, transparent care, Vaughn Kauffman, health industries principal at PwC told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview.

"It felt like now's the time to demonstrate consumers are willing to explore alternative ways to get their care based on convenience and price," Kauffman said. "We really think this is where healthcare's going. There's going to be a role for retailers and other companies that are not traditionally in healthcare."

Simple examples include retail clinics offering flu vaccines, he said, along with insurers acquiring provider groups and providers getting into the insurance business.

Technology also plays a role in healthcare's shifting dynamics, which includes decentralizing the healthcare system and putting the consumer at the center with telehealth initiatives and accessible information.

"The consumer is at the center of the healthcare industry and they want to be engaged in what is preferred to them," Kauffman said. "As we think about the need for innovation and lowering prices to improve care, this is a time where we're seeing a lot more converging in our healthcare industry." 

Hospitals still play a vital role in patient care, but will need to find ways to compete in an ever-changing market to stay relevant to patient needs and demands, Kauffman said. "They've been looking at ways to provide more convenience, more transparency."

But not all retail clinics and hospitals have a competitive relationship. Some hospitals are partnering with retail clinics to help fill the gap in care created by physician shortages, FierceHealthcare previously reported. For example, UCLA Health System announced its affiliation with CVS Caremark's MinuteClinic in 2012 in an effort to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare services.

To learn more:
- read the retail clinic survey results
- check out the second HRI survey