NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 26, 2006

Retail health clinics are spreading fast in supermarkets, drugstores and big-box chains across the country, luring patients with walk-in treatment for minor ailments like strep throat -- at about half the cost of a typical doctor visit, says the Wall Street Journal.

Now, traditional medical providers are stepping up to the counter, driven by the threat of new competition, the opportunity to recruit new patients -- and real concerns about the quality of care.

  • In southeastern New Jersey, for example, AtlantiCare, the region's largest health care system, will open its first in-store HealthRite clinic next month in a Somers Point, N.J., ShopRite supermarket; it's the first of seven initially planned, and the company may also franchise stores to other health systems.
  • Geisinger Health System, of Danville, Pa., with hospitals, physician practices and other health services, is opening its first CareWorks Convenient Healthcare clinic in the Weis Markets grocery chain next month, and will open as many as 75 sites throughout the region in the next five years.
  • Memorial Baptist Health system in South Bend, Ind., is operating Medpoint express centers in local Wal-Mart Super Centers.

Staffed mainly by nurse practitioners who are licensed to treat a wide range of minor illnesses and prescribe medications, retail clinics have grown rapidly over the past five years as retailers, including CVS, Kroger, Wal-Mart Stores and Walgreen, have signed up with more than a half-dozen clinic operators.

By the end of the decade, the number of clinics could grow nearly tenfold to 10,000, says Peter Miller, chief executive officer of Take Care Health which plans to open 1,400 clinics by 2009.  "We're offering health care on patients' terms instead of on the health-care system's terms," says Miller.

Source: Laura Landro, "The New Force In Walk-In Clinics; Hospitals and Doctors Seek

Slice of Burgeoning Business; Getting Referrals at ShopRite," Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2006.

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