More Retail Clinics Reach Agreements With Traditional Providers
An increased number of traditional health care providers -- "driven by the threat of new competition, the opportunity to recruit new patients" and quality of care issues -- have begun to compete with and enter agreements with retail clinics -- low-cost, walk-in facilities often located in supermarkets, pharmacies and large retail stores, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Some large regional health care systems have opened clinics to compete directly with retail clinics, which are staffed mainly by nurse practitioners. In addition, some medical groups and physician offices have signed contracts to supervise staff at retail clinics and have reached referral agreements with the facilities.
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians last month said that retail clinics without ties to health care systems could lead to a number of problems -- such as fragmentation of care for patients, inadequate follow-up care and a lack of preventive care -- and recommended that the facilities ensure staff receive supervision from physicians and reach referral agreements with local physicians and hospitals.
Over the next 10 years, the number or retail clinics -- which currently operate in retailers such as CVS Pharmacy, Kroger, Wal-Mart Stores and Walgreen stores -- likely will reach almost 10,000, according to Peter Miller, CEO of Take Care Health Systems, which operates 16 clinics in the Midwest.
Ron Levy, regional president of SSM Health Care, which recently partnered with Take Care, said, "We see this as an opportunity to participate in an evolution of health care but also to help shape it in a way that serves patients first."
A report by the California HealthCare Foundation said that retail clinics "could change the way many people receive routine, non-urgent medical care."
According to the Journal, some experts question whether retail clinics "can generate adequate profits for operators and retailers," but, by "opening their own clinics or signing referral agreements, hospitals and physicians can capture a piece of the action" (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 7/26).