Trend: Hospitals mounting attack on retail clinic business

For a while, it was beginning to look like the retail clinic phenomenon was peaking or perhaps even petering out, with a handful of clinics even being forced out of business. But maybe the truth is that the battleground is shifting--from growth fueled by pharmacy chains and independent operators to a gradual encroachment by hospitals.

While hospitals have been dabbling in the retail clinic market for years, a growing number are dipping their oar in. For example, the Cleveland Clinic has lent its impeccable brand and services to several CVS clinics in Ohio, and the Mayo Clinic is operating two clinics in Rochester, MN supermarkets.

Among the highest-profile retail clinic efforts by hospitals are those connected with Wal-Mart, which opened its 26th hospital-linked clinic last week, and plans to add dozens more. Wal-Mart's partners include Aurora Health System in Wisconsin and CoxHealth in Missouri, as well as the Christus Medical Group.

Hospital-backed clinics may someday turn out to be the predominant model. After all, while it's very hard to make money on high-cost, low-margin clinics, they can make sense as a feeder for hospital business. On the other hand, if too high a percentage of clinic patients are uninsured, it won't be such a great proposition for hospitals. We'll just have to see how it shakes out.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this piece from The New York Times

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