Retail clinics--nurse practitioner-staffed medical centers that are less expensive than regular doctor visits--began popping up five years ago in such stores as CVS, Wal-Mart and Walgreens. Now traditional medical providers are taking notice of retail health clinics and even throwing their hats in the ring in order to protect themselves from competition. Some health systems have staffed their own clinics, signed contracts to oversee clinic staff or set up referral systems with the in-store clinics. By partnering rather than competing with the clinics, physicians can enjoy a slice of the profits while at the same time easing critics' concerns about quality-of-care issues. Traditional health providers have recognized that the clinics' straightforward and less expensive approach to healthcare could revolutionize how many people, particularly the uninsured, receive medical treatment. In addition, the growing popularity of the consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) means that more people are looking for ways to cut down on their out-of-pocket medical expenses. With an estimated 10,000 sites to open by 2010, it looks as though doctors had better learn to play nicely with the clinics.
- read this The Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)