Retail clinics keep advancing

Without a doubt, last year was an important year in the evolution of the retail clinic market, with chain drug stores, retail giants like Target and WalMart, and even grocery stores welcoming them on site.

Though retail clinics may not become a household word among consumers this year, players in this niche will make dramatic progress in 2007. This year retail clinics will move from novelties to strategic business extensions of major health players. Specifically, integrated health systems will begin setting up retail clinics as a new form of satellite feeder site. Also, emergency departments building primary care diversion programs might consider it wise to set up on-site "retail" style clinics. For simplicity, hospitals may still go to existing retail clinic providers like MinuteClinic with a strong connection to pharmacy dispensing and digital patient health records. If they don't, they still have the opportunity to avoid unneeded ED visits by situating a low-fee, physically attractive retail-inspired clinic which sees patients at rates EDs couldn't possibly match. What's more, the form of the retail clinic model should evolve, providing such additional services as laboratory testing, basic diagnostic imaging and small, integrated pharmacy inventories.

All told, expect the retail clinic model to strike much deeper roots in 2007. So keep an eye on this industry, lest these clinics become competitors rather than sources of patient referrals.