Urgent care centers proliferate as popularity of retail health heats up

The rise of retail health has proven to be a major disruptor in the healthcare industry, and recent reports indicate that its power will not dissipate anytime soon.

For instance, the urgent care industry is booming in Texas, the San Antonio Express-News reports. More than 500 of the country's 6,400 or so urgent care centers are in the Lone Star State, possibly due to Texas' population growth and its residents' limited access to primary care. Nationwide, about 500 new urgent care centers open every year, according to the article.

The clinics are attractive tenants for developers who want to draw people to declining retail facilities, according to the article. Indeed, many retail clinics have been known to set up shop in mall spaces once occupied by non-medical businesses, such as RadioShack, FierceHealthcare has reported. But NextCare Holdings, the owner of 122 urgent care clinics in 11 states, prefers to build new clinics in already-strong retail centers "with a big anchor tenant" such as Target, Jeff Gerlach, NextCare's senior vice president of business development and strategic growth, told the Express-News.

Target itself has also gotten into the urgent-care game, as its California stores have joined forces with Kaiser Permanente to offer urgent care services in-store, Retail Dive reports. The retail giant is in good company, as CVS, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and even Whole Foods have also started or planned a "major expansion" of their clinical health services, according to the article.

Urgent care centers are increasingly popular among patients because of their convenience and affordability, thanks to tactics gleaned in part from the fast-food industry. Rather than fight the trend, many traditional providers have instead chosen to either partner with existing clinics or roll out their own.

Still, this ever-growing industry is not without its challenges and detractors. Some states' refusal to expand Medicaid and the Supreme Court's looming decision in the King v. Burwell case could affect many Americans' healthcare spending habits, according to Retail Dive. And some provider groups also have shown skepticism of urgent care centers' impact on the quality of care.

To learn more:
- read the Express-News article
- here's the Retail Dive article

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