Clinics, clinics, everywhere

February 5, 2007

They are all the rage-thousands of retail-based health centers are set to open this year. Should you open one?

That scene is being played out daily in about 300 in-store clinics nationwide, in which pharmacy chains, supermarkets, and large retail stores are offering convenient access to low-cost health care and services.

No doubt about it. Pharmacy and retail chains are in an in-store-clinic catfight. In July, CVS Corp., one of the players that was early to the game, gained a foothold by acquiring Minneapolis-based MinuteClinic. With 118 clinics in 17 states, the chain plans a broad national expansion.

What's behind the in-store clinic boom? Is it a fad or is it a trend that's here to stay?

With healthcare costs soaring and an estimated 46 million Americans uninsured, the concept of launching an in-store clinic appears to be a win/win situation for retailers and patients.

"Ninety percent of people seen at the clinic receive a prescription; 85% of people seen at the clinic end up using that pharmacy to fill the prescription; patients leave with 1.2 prescriptions in their hand; 65% of people in the store are brand-new customers as a result of coming to the clinic," said Heiser.

Staffed primarily by NPs, these clinics offer convenience to patients seeking medical treatment for common illnesses such as sore throats, coughs, colds, earaches, and respiratory infections. Most of the clinics are open seven days a week; therefore, their hours are more convenient than those of a traditional doctor.

The clinics generally see patients 18 months of age and older, and visits generally take 15 to 25 minutes for diagnosis and treatment. The basic cost for a visit ranges from $40 to $70. Many insurance plans cover visits to these clinics and allow the patient to pay only a co-pay.