Retail clinic models will solidify

Though they've made big progress, retail/convenient clinic operators are still feeling their way around. While it seems pretty clear that there's a good marriage between these clinics and some retail settings (Wal-Mart sounds particularly sweet to me), others (supermarkets) seem questionable. Quick care centers in an airport may need to offer different services than a clinic situated in a pharmacy, given that the two populations are in all probability different. Clinics run by independent operators will have different imperatives (cash flow) than those run by health systems as feeders (generate referrals). This year, though, I think many of these business model issues will begin to iron themselves out. In particular, I believe we'll see health systems develop models for deploying clinics which differ significantly from those affiliated strictly with retailers. 

Retail clinics based in Walgreens, for example, could do more to streamline drug dispensing, perhaps developing a specific procedure for treating clinic patients. I could see them making a small behind-the-counter supply of commonly-prescribed drugs available to their clinics, sparing patients the need to even wait in line. And health systems could develop standard ways of deploying clinics which do more to integrate the patient into their system, for example, by making the clinics a location for system-wide health education classes or an outreach channel for making sure patients meet preventative care criteria. These may not be glamorous examples, but you get the drift.

In short, retail clinics will soon develop a firmer business model, service deployment characteristics which are unique by clinic sub-sector and a clearer role in the healthcare industry as a whole. As this happens, expect opposing physicians to calm down a bit and figure out how to work with them. There's nothing like clarity to settle an argument.

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