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Study: Retail health clinics, urgent care centers a $10B market and growing


TAMPA, Fla. — The retail health clinic and urgent care center market currently is worth about $10 billion and is poised for strong growth in the coming years as the shortage of primary care physicians and crowded emergency rooms increasingly move patients to retail sites, according to new data by Marketdata Enterprises, an independent market research publisher.

Marketdata Enterprises has released the new 132-page report entitled, “The Market For Retail Health Clinics & Urgent Care Centers.” The study explores the nature of the business; industry size and growth; demand factors; patient demographics; effects of the recession and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; operating ratios; major competitors and more.

“The primary care MD shortage is getting worse and consumers with less insurance are increasingly using retail health clinics for kids’ physicals, flu shots, ear infections, sore throats and minor ailments. Soon, they’ll be using these clinics for diabetes monitoring, weight-loss programs and more,” research director John LaRosa said.

Major findings included:

  • Marketdata estimates that retail clinics, now numbering about 1,400, will nearly double to 2,700 sites by 2016;

  • Average revenues per clinic are $512,000. Urgent care centers account for $9.23 billion and retail centers for $786 million — for a total of $10.08 billion;

Marketdata estimates that 9,000 urgent care clinics' revenues will hit $9.23 billion this year, and rise to $14.16 billion by 2016; and

  • The number of yearly patient visits to retail clinics exploded, from 1.48 million in 2007 to 5.97 million in 2009, and an estimated 10.5 million by year-end 2012.

The investment needed to open a retail clinic in a drug store chain, supermarket or big box retailer is about $250,000, and to open a stand-alone urgent care center with on-site X-ray machines and other equipment is $750,000 to $1 million, according to the research.


New retail clinics less than two years old may have 10 to 15 patients/day, at an average fee of $60 to $75, while “established” clinics will see 25 to 30 patients/day. Visits spike during the fall flu season, the study stated.


Half of urgent care centers are owned by physician groups and another 28% by hospitals, which are setting up their own centers separate from emergency rooms.

More consumers are using retail clinics and urgent care centers as their first point of entry to the healthcare system, and 32 million more will enter in 2014 when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is in effect. Primary care physicians and emergency rooms won’t be able to handle the increased volume, the study stated.


Private equity firms are keen to invest in this niche healthcare sector, and several companies such as Doctor’s Express are already franchising.


Adding weight-loss programs to their repertoire could push retail clinics from break-even to profitability. It’s a natural fit, since dieters want drop-in anytime convenience, low price, and personal attention. Partnerships are certain to multiply over the next few years.

“Retail health clinics will provide a boon for nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, who are well qualified to treat minor ailments. Plus, it’s a great way to learn the business aspects of medicine. Healthcare is becoming more decentralized, being delivered where consumers shop and work — not just in the doctor’s office and not just 9-5, M-F, and at less cost,” LaRosa said.

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