As popularity of retail clinics grows among consumers, so does the likelihood of increased clinical pathology laboratory testing at these locations
Retail clinics (RC)—often called “rapid clinics”—are growing at a phenomenal rate. At the same time, more hospitals and health systems are deciding to participate in this growing trend, either by owning and operating such retail clinics in their communities or by providing the clinical staff.
Since the inception of this new care delivery model about six years ago, Dark Daily has predicted that consumers will support rapid clinics located in certain retail settings. Events to date bear this out. For that reason, pathologists and clinical laboratory managers should expect to see, over time, a steady increase in the menu of diagnostic testing offered by retail clinics.
Rapid clinic operators recognize that there is money to be made in providing medical laboratory tests. They also know there is even more money to be made by giving the patient immediate access to purchase the prescription drug(s) that would be indicated, based on the diagnostic test results performed by the clinician in the retail clinic.
Statistics Confirm Patients Like Retail Clinics
Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers may be surprised to learn that sales at rapid clinics in retail settings have risen 81% per year since 2005. For 2011 revenue is projected to be $733.4 million in 2011. Those numbers were reported by The Pharmacy Times.
Medical market research firm Kalorama Information recently updated its annual assessment of this industry segment. It is titled, “Retail Clinics 2011: Market Assessment, Supplier Sales, Key Players and Trends”.
Kalorama says that retail clinics are now an established model. The numbers show that the popularity of retail health clinics has persisted, despite significant economic and regulatory.
Kalorama observed that the overall business model is quite consistent. It essentially involves the provision of basic healthcare services at low cost by a nurse practitioner at a location such as a drug store, food store, or mass merchandiser.
MinuteClinic is the largest retail clinic chain in the country, with 600 clinics in CVS stores in 24 states. “This year, we added 45 clinics,” said Andrew Sussman, M.D., MinuteClinic President and Associate Chief Medical Officer of Caremark, in USA Today. Other retail clinic competitors include Walgreen’s Take Care Health, Wal-Mart, and Target.
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Visits to retail clinics generally cost consumers between $45 and $75. Many health insurance companies will cover and reimburse clinic visits and some have waived co-pay fees at these clinics, CCA reported.
Though concerns remain among some physicians and policymakers, the growth in popularity of retail clinics is proof that consumers like the advantages they offer, particularly the ease of access and shorter wait time. Moving healthcare out of doctors’ offices could also help deal with the shortage of primary care providers, especially in rural areas where there are few retail health clinics, an article in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Technology Review noted.
“[A]nything we can do to decentralize healthcare delivery is moving us in a better direction,” Joseph Kvedar, M.D., Founder of the Center for Connected Health at Partners Healthcare, stated in the article. (MIT)
“[Retail clinics] make a good case that the cost of managing certain medical problems that are relatively straightforward and acute could be lowered when done outside of the primary-care office,” noted Joe Weidner, M.D., a family practice physician at Stone Run Family Medicine in Maryland, in the Tech Review article.
Hospitals and Insurance Plans Support Retail Clinics
Clinical laboratory managers should take note of one important development. In the early stages of the retail clinic movement, few of these rapid clinics were linked to hospitals or medical centers. Today, 1 in 10 has a hospital connection, according to Merchant Medicine News, an online newsletter for the clinic industry. Many more are planned, the article stated.
A Managed Care Magazine article, reported that Blue Cross & Blue Shield’s plan now has traditional provider contracts with retail clinics, and the clinics are on the menu of provider options all members receive. The article further pointed out that some employers are offering employees incentives to use retail clinics by waiving copayments.
This kind of support, along with concerns about a primary care physician shortage has industry experts predicting continued growth of RCs, Managed Care noted. A recent Deloitte Center for Health Solutions report predicts a “Wave-Two” boom in retail clinics from 2012 to 2014, stated a Merchant Medicine article. The number of retail health clinics around the country is predicted to grow to about 3,200 by 2014, up from about 1,000 in 2008 and from just a couple of hundred in 2006, according to Deloitte.
If there is a message in all of this growth and market acceptance for retail clinics, it is that clinical laboratory managers and pathologists should understand that they are now an established care delivery model within the healthcare system. Thus, it may be productive for local clinical laboratories and hospital laboratory outreach programs to look for opportunities to provide medical laboratory testing support for the retail clinics in their area.
—Pamela Scherer McLeod
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