The current wave of retail, urgent care clinics continues, and overall the future is still bright. There has been, and will be, some shake-out. One of the first companies in this wave, CheckUps, operated 23 clinics in Wal-Mart stores in
On the other hand, Wal-Mart has announced that it plans to open 400 store based clinics between now and 2010. Wal-Mart’s first co-branded in-store clinics with local hospitals will open under “The Clinic at Wal-Mart” brand in
I firmly believe that these retail clinics are here to stay because they address several consumers “pain” points: (1) convenience, in terms of hours and location, (2) predictable pricing/cost and (3) simplicity and narrow focus. The important takeaways from these developments offer potential opportunities for private practice physicians. First, the operating companies and their retail chain hosts want to work with local healthcare provides for the goodwill of the local “brand”. Secondly, the clinics need medical backup, something which local providers need to provide. Your hospital may be the preferred affiliate, but they need physicians to refer to – enter you. Third, you can enter into your own relationship with the clinics and use them as an after-hours option. In this kind of arrangement, you want the clinic staff to be calling you if they need to speak with you, and to insure that you get the follow-up appointment and a report. By being responsive to the clinic’s needs and by being respectful, you are also more likely to be called with referrals for patients without a physician (primary or specialty).
There have been several models of urgent care clinics around for some 30 years, but the retail clinics appear to be taking hold as a low overhead, low cost, limited service solution for real patient needs. You can’t stop it, but you can help your patients and work with them to grow your own practice.