Retail clinics offer wake-up call for primary care practices

Traditional primary care practices (PCPs) ought to pay close attention to retailers such as Walgreens, RiteAid, CVS Health and Target. Their success, argues a blog post from healthcare consultancy The Advisory Board Company, should serve as a wakeup call that practices will need to up their service game in order to compete.

"The reality is clinics like those that these retail giants have been launching deliver a better product than traditional primary care for many attributes that consumers value highly," wrote Lisa Bielamowicz, M.D., executive director and chief medical officer for the firm, following a Saturday visit to Walgreens Take Care Clinic with her children.

The attributes that impressed Bielamowicz, along with participants of a recent survey by her company, included the following:

  • Centralized online scheduling
  • Extended hours
  • Price transparency
  • Less than 30 minutes of waiting
  • Broad range of services, including "monitoring and management" of "ongoing health conditions"

Bielamowicz's post did not comment on how chronic care management in the retail setting might affect the physician-patient relationship, but focused on the convenience factor. "Seeing how easy it was to find and make an appointment, you could easily imagine some patients choosing to visit a clinic like this for care of their chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension," she wrote.

The post concluded, however, noting that PCPs needn't necessarily see retail clinic disruption as a threat, but as a piece of the puzzle as primary care evolves "toward a more purpose-driven, customized model of primary care." She concluded: "To be sure, primary care physicians and practices will still have a critical role. But in the healthcare marketplace that's taking shape, we expect PCPs to be focused on the highest-value activities, such as managing complex chronic illnesses, directing care teams, and providing concierge-based care."

To learn more:
- read the post