Retail health clinics will continue to expand throughout the country and will increase by nearly 50 percent in the next two years, according to a new report from Accenture.
The global professional services company estimates that by the end of this year, there will be 2,150 walk-in clinics in pharmacies, retail chains and supermarkets. But that number will top 2,800, reaching capacity for 9 million more patients, by 2017.
"Retail clinics are shifting to a clinical focus with more sophisticated services for consumers who want walk-in convenience for their basic health needs," said Kristin Ficery, managing director of health consulting, Accenture, in an announcement about the findings. "This shift provides a release valve for strained health systems, as they prioritize more critical patient cases, and will give consumers another option for addressing their healthcare needs on their own terms."
However, the report also indicated unease among more traditional healthcare providers about the retail clinic model's growth. In a survey of 1,000 physicians, the firm found more than 40 percent of them are comfortable with patients seeking preventive care at the clinics, but fewer than 2 in 5 endorsed using them for either primary care of long-term chronic condition management.
Retail clinic leaders, meanwhile, have made clear that ideally, the model will complement traditional care rather than compete with or replace it. "Our role is a safety net. We provide access at low cost, high quality and get patients to primary care," said Nancy Gagliano, M.D., senior vice president of CVS Caremark and chief medical officer for CVS MinuteClinic, the largest retail clinic provider in the country, at this year's annual meeting of the American Hospital Association.
"As more retail clinics shift from cost centers to profit centers, they will be better able to deliver stand-alone profits with greater certainty, so the implications for retailers and healthcare value chain players will be significant," Ficery said.