High deductible plans help fuel expansion

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

High deductible plans help fuel expansion

By Michael Johnsen - 07/05/2017
The retail clinic space represents a fast-growing industry that hasn’t even scratched the surface in terms of its full potential given constant market pressures to make health care more affordable, more accessible and more efficient. In 2016, more than 2,200 locations in the United States generated sales of more than $1.4 billion, a 20.3% increase per year from $518 million in 2010, according to Kalorama Information’s “Retail Clinics 2017: The Game-Changer in Healthcare” report, published earlier this year.

Today, there are approximately 2,400 convenient care clinics in 43 states and the District of Columbia that have served more than 35 million consumers, according to the Convenient Care Association. In addition, there are more than 150 health systems partnering with or operating retail clinics, and these affiliations have grown in the last few years because of the value retail clinics bring to the primary care team.

(To read about how retail clinics can expand via on-site POC offerings, click here.)

Through 2020, those sales are expected to continue on a sharp upward trajectory driven by aggressive expansion and the fact that retail clinics today provide a number of critical patient needs to the marketplace, chief of which is a lower cost burden.

“As the number of Americans with high-deductible health plans rises and out-of-pocket costs grow, [retail clinics] have become an increasingly convenient and affordable resource for families,” Sharon Vitti, executive director of MinuteClinic, shared with Drug Store News. “Our clinics offer up to an 80% savings over more costly care options, such as urgent care centers or emergency rooms, and prices for all services are posted at each clinic and online.”

“Patients have become consumers, [and] they’re looking for accessible care at an affordable price point,” said Pat Carroll, chief medical officer of Healthcare Clinics at Walgreens. “Even though insurance covers retail health visits, much of what they pay is out of pocket because it doesn’t reach their deductible. Health systems are also in this realization that it’s a consumer-centric economy in health care, and they need access points to care — portals of entry into their system,” he said. “[Those health systems] are looking for multimodal, consumer-facing access points.”

The fact that retail clinics increasingly are serving as points of entry for health systems is another factor behind the huge growth potential of this market. “Retail clinics continue to be a complement, not a replacement, to primary care providers,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association. As many as 50% of patients who use retail clinics do not have an established PCP relationship, and retail clinics fill a gap that would otherwise be filled by costly and unnecessary emergency room visits, she added.

Those partnerships with healthcare systems and provider groups are opening the door to more comprehensive services, such as the management of chronic conditions. “There is an opportunity for retail clinics to collaborate with physicians [to treat patients] with chronic conditions, as retail clinics can provide easy access to disease monitoring and lifestyle counseling, as well as medication therapy through the in-store pharmacist and disease management in some circumstances,” noted Web Golinkin, CEO RediClinic.

“Retail clinics have definitely evolved from being ‘sniffles clinics’ to becoming true healthcare destinations for our customers,” said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Pharmacy and the Little Clinic. “That’s why we are proactively marketing our expansion into ongoing health management. We have the ability to treat and diagnose anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, sexually transmitted illnesses and other conditions. For those patients who need greater care, we can effectively collaborate with our healthcare partners in the community.”

In general, consumer response to retail clinics has been strong. Kalorama’s recent retail clinic survey found that 54.6% of those adults who had used a retail clinic reported they were “very satisfied” with their visit, while 36.3% said they were “satisfied.” Only a small percentage, less than 8%, reported they were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”

Much of that satisfaction is driven not only by the convenience of walk-in scheduling, but also by the proximity of the pharmacy to the clinic. “The co-location of retail clinics and pharmacies provides tremendous convenience and superior coordination of care for patients,” Golinkin said.

“Having a clinic and pharmacy in the same location offers today’s customers the convenience they desire, and there is an expectation that they are working together on their behalf,” Lindholz added. “The relationship between our clinicians and the pharmacists is the most natural in a store. They are both working to help and improve people’s health. The consumer gets the benefit of having two sets of healthcare professionals who are available to them. It’s advantageous.”

That partnership between provider and pharmacist will lend itself to a greater menu of services going forward because, beyond the continued expansion of the retail clinic footprint across the nation and the onboarding of more chronic disease management services, there still is room to grow. “As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, MinuteClinic will as well,” Vitti said. “We are exploring expanding our telehealth offerings, and will continue to add new services that make sense for our patients and providers.”

“Both in our traditional clinics and the collaborative arrangements [with health systems], the pharmacist plays a very valuable role,” Carroll said. “In those new relationships, the health systems see having that clinical pharmacist next door is very valuable. They look at it as a value-add quite honestly.”

To read about what five top chains are doing in the retail clinic space, read on.