Expansion of retail clinics slowing

Merchant Medicine, a Minneapolis-based research and retail clinic consulting firm, found that 12 retail clinics were shut down in June--a sign of the slow, but steady growth for retail clinics. The clinics were shuttered because of a weak economy and investment firms that have grown impatient, according to Merchant Medicine, which has been tracking the progress of retail clinics for two years. Although there are 969 retail clinics in the United States, June was the first month the firm has seen a net drop, said Tom Charland, the firm's chief executive.

The clinics that seem to shut down with the most regularity are those that are not financed by private investors who partner with large retailers. Charland said that when big retail clinics close, it's likely because they're backed by private investors rather than by large retailers. Figures show that in 2007, retail clinics opened at a rate of one each day, and despite last month's decrease, Charland said that this month's numbers have shown continued growth, thus far.

Walgreens plans to have 400 clinics--operating under the Take Care Health Systems brand--in place by the start of 2009. A spokesman for Walgreens noted that it has taken about three years for the retail clinics to start turning a profit consistently. Wal-Mart said it will open 400 in the next three years.

 To learn more about this:
- read this Inside Health Care piece