Retail Clinic Market Showing Signs of Growth

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , November 18, 2009

Approximately 20% to 25% of the retail clinics now are already owned by healthcare providers, says Mary Kay Scott, a California healthcare consultant, who has studied and written about the retail clinic trend. Many of the clinics, such as MinuteClinic, have begun to "more formally align" themselves with larger healthcare providers.

"All retail clinics, no matter who they are owned by, make sure they can refer you to a primary care physician and make sure that they can get you treatment somewhere if it's not appropriate in the clinic," she says.

Some of the more recognizable health systems now in the "retail clinic mix" are Intermountain Healthcare with access to five clinics within grocery stores in Utah; Mayo Clinic with two clinics in Minnesota; and the Cleveland Clinic with a primary referral channel for nine MinuteClinics operating in the Cleveland area.

The key to the successful operation of the retail clinic is back up and ancillary support from a local provider organization that is "responsive to its need for a medical director to review charts, manage referrals, oversee quality controls, and write orders for drugs, tests, and follow up care," the report said.

Increasingly, retail clinics' patient data will be warehoused in the electronic health records held by providers. Therefore, retail clinics will require ongoing collaboration with a local provider organization while resisting pressure to modify their operating model to accommodate "traditional" approaches to care.

At current demand levels, the retail clinic industry is "marginally profitable." Clinics in appropriately targeted locations and settings typically break even in 12 to 18 months, the report noted.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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