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Retail clinics positioned for dramatic growth


SAN JOSE, Calif. — Retail clinics and medical centers are poised to expand, thanks to several enhancements in technology.

Speaking at the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting in San Jose this week, Health Resources chairman and CEO Ron Hammerle, and Jay Sanders, president and CEO of at the Global Telemedicine Group and Health Resources VP, said that smartphones, medical centers of excellence, automated clinical labs and digital medical devices will transform retail-affiliated clinics into global ports of entry to prime health care at dramatically lower costs to patients, physicians, employers, governments and insurers.

Sanders, who also is president emeritus of the ATA, noted, however, that "healthcare providers have largely failed to... use established channels of distribution and low-cost technologies to serve patients better;" addressing the fact that retail clinics are sometimes overlooked as a viable option for treating patients.

On the flip side of the coin, Hammerle said such clinic retailers as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Safeway, Kroger, Target and Rite Aid are beginning to see "major growth opportunities." A few prime examples is the offering of real-time appointment scheduling (Walgreens' Take Care Clinics), clinical affiliation with hospitals and healthcare systems (as seen with CVS Caremark's MinuteClinic business) and the fact that since the inception of retail-based health clinics in 2000, the concept has grown to more than 1,300 locations throughout the United States.

"The next round of growth will electronically link large numbers of clinics, pharmacies and independently-owned and operated primary care clinics to a small number of medical centers of excellence, using telemedicine technologies, computer information and proven systems for branding, management and expansion," Hammerle said. "Imagine combining the distribution of global retailers, the branding models of companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Marriott and Century 21 and the clinical knowledge of some of the best physicians in the world. That's where health care is going."

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