Retail clinics go from concept to reality

Ah, retail clinics. They've generated a lot of heat over the past year, largely from the AMA and its affiliates, who have criticized the model as being a threat to patient safety. However, that hasn't done much to slow the growth this sector, which is backed by behemoths like CVS Caremark, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, not to mention a growing number of health systems and hospitals. This is heady stuff. With Wal-Mart's involvement, we got a look at a future where retailers control more of the healthcare dollar. Scary stuff if you're a provider executive!

Do retail clinics face obstacles to growth? No doubt. Opponents of the retail clinic industry aren't going to drop their resistance and walk away. Next year, for example, Massachusetts public health officials will decide whether CVS can add retail clinics to its pharmacies there--a move many Massachusetts medical organizations have vowed to quash. In Illinois, no doubt, physicians who sought an anti-retail-clinic law will remain up at arms.  Still, I doubt these groups will have much success slowing down the juggernaut. During the past year, it became pretty clear that retail clinics will have a place in the care delivery system. Now it's a matter of how to adapt.

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