More Retail Clinics Expected
Retail chains such as Wal-Mart, Duane Reade, CVS and Walgreen within the next few years plan to open at least 5,000 low-cost, walk-in clinics as part of an effort "to capture walk-in patients who will buy drugs and other merchandise," despite quality of care concerns, Bloomberg/Washington Times reports.
In most cases, retail clinics are administered by nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, who treat common health conditions and write prescriptions on a low-cost fee for service basis. About 40% of retail clinics accept at least one form of health insurance, according to a July report from the California HealthCare Foundation.
According to Bloomberg/Times, retail chains "like walk-in clinics because they bring additional customers who will probably fill their prescriptions as well as shop for additional merchandise ... while they wait."
Amee Chande, vice president of health strategy and communications for Wal-Mart said, "This is something that could fundamentally change the way health care is delivered. It may not be the entire answer, but the opportunity to make some impact is really exciting."
However, the medical community has raised concerns about increased use of the clinics. A June report from the American Medical Association said that "many physicians remain concerned about the impact store-based health clinics may have on their practices, the physician-patient relationship and the coordination of care."
According to Peter Miller -- CEO of Take Care Health Systems, which operates a number of retail clinics -- about 20% of local physicians support the clinics, 70% "don't love" them but acknowledge their importance and 5% to 10% are threatened by them (Fineman, Bloomberg/Washington Times, 9/11).