CUSTOMER HEALTH CARE
May 14, 2007
Retail health clinics are opening in big box stores and local pharmacies around the country to treat common maladies at prices lower than a typical doctor's visit and much lower than the emergency room, says Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute.
In addition, the clinics don't require appointments, they're open daytime, evenings and weekends and most take insurance. This combination of low-cost care and convenience are making them immensely popular, says Turner. Consider:
- The Convenient Care Association estimates there are about 325 of these retail clinics operating nationwide today.
- Some 76 of them are in Wal-Marts in 12 states, but the company announced last month it will expand to 400 clinics by the end of the decade and 2,000 in 5 to 7 years.
- They are run by outside firms, including for-profit ventures like RediClinic, as well as local and regional health plans and hospitals.
- They're popping up everywhere; you can find a MinuteClinic in the CVS store on the Strip in Las Vegas, an Express Clinic in Miami, MediMin in Phoenix or a Curaquick in Sioux City.
Rick Kellerman, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, concedes, "The retail clinics are sending physicians a message that our current model of care is not always easy to access." The threat of competition from the in-store clinics means some doctors are keeping their practices open later and on Saturdays and holding an hour open for same-day appointments. Competition works.
This industry is in its infancy and will hardly register in our nation's $2 trillion-plus health care bill, says Turner. But just as Nucor overturned the steelmaking industry with a faster-better-cheaper way of making low-end rebar, these limited service clinics could be the disruptive innovator in our health care system.
Source: Grace-Marie Turner, "Customer Health Care," Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2007.
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