Retail clinics seek mall space to reach wider patient base

Many retail clinics take advantage of mall space abandoned by retailers such as RadioShack and Sears, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Walk-in retail clinics have grown 20 percent since 2009, with the number reaching 9,400 as of 2013, according to the article, more than one in three of which are in strip malls or shopping centers. The clinics attract patients with their convenience and affordability. For example, Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association, told Inforum its patients saved an average of $75 per encounter, compared to a likely cost of up to $600 at an emergency room or urgent care clinic. 

Mall locations offer advantages to mall owners as well. They tend to pay rents of about $25 per square foot and have better credit. Last year, Kimco Realty CEO Dave Henry told Businessweek, Kimco leased 40 medical clinics, up from 34 and 27, respectively, the two years prior.

The clinics follow what has come to be known as the "Blockbuster strategy," as locations formerly owned by the now-defunct video rental chain tend to have features clinics look for, including visibility, heavy traffic and signage capabilities, according to the article. For example, Palisades Urgent Care in Nanuet, New York, moved into a shuttered Blockbuster in November 2012.

Hospitals also take advantage of the availability of clinic space to lessen the strain on emergency departments. For example, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has clinics planned for retail centers throughout the Nashville area after the hospital's success setting up in a large section of the city's first enclosed mall in 2009, according to Businessweek. "We're trying to decamp those patients that truly don't need the emergency room care to facilities that can give them the quality of care that they need," Janice Smith, chief administrative officer of the hospital's off-campus system, told the publication.

The clinics are rapidly growing in Arkansas as well, according to Arkansas Business. HealthCare Express, Ltd., has already opened two in the Little Rock area, with more planned, according to Managing Partner Tim Reynolds, M.D. "We certainly did not go into Little Rock only to have two clinics," he said.

The growth of retail clinics has some experts concerned that they may hurt preventive care, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Their patients tend to have less complex problems, and those patients opting for clinics leaves hospitals with more complex, expensive patient bases.

To learn more:
- here's the Businessweek article
- read the Inforum article
- check out the Arkansas Business article