Report: Retail clinics offer relief of primary care physician shortage

Use of retail clinics is still booming across the country, with 5 percent growth in the number of clinics across the country in the last year and as many as 2,800 clinics expected to log 10.8 million patient visits a year by 2014, according to a new report from consulting firm Accenture.

Yet while concerns persist about just how big a role walk-in centers should play in providing primary and even chronic care, support is building for retail clinics' promise to help the United States manage a massive physician shortage predicted to intensify upon implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

"There's such a shortfall of primary care physicians that as a nation we have to begin to look at how we meet the needs of the population. One way to address it is by sending people to these alternative resources for healthcare," Nancy Finn, Boston-based author of "e-Patients Live Longer: The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology," told the Los Angeles Times.

According to a post from Family Practice News, right now it makes more sense for medical practices to work in concert with retail and urgent care clinics, rather than against them, noting that formal partnerships between clinics with physicians and hospitals are on the rise as well.

In particular, Accenture analysts recommended that doctors embrace the option to refer lower-acuity cases to retail clinics, leaving themselves available to provide more complex, higher-paying care.

"A return to more stellar growth rates may now follow, not least as the perception of retail clinics as rivals switches to something more practical," according to the report.

To learn more:
- read the article from the Los Angeles Times
- read the post from Family Practice News
- see the report (.pdf) from Accenture

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