Retail Clinics Could Triple in Five Years

Includes: AET, CVS, KR, WBA
by: Mark J. Perry
According to Merchant Medicine's "2011-2015 Walk-In Clinic Market Forecast," the number of retail clinics in the U.S. could almost double from the current level of 1,220 clinics to 2,315 by 2015 under a "mid-case scenario," and the number could more than triple to 3,380 under the "best-case scenario (see chart above). Even under the "worst case scenario," the number of retail clinics would increase by 33% during the next five years. The report identifies some key factors that will influence the growth in retail clinics through 2015:
1. "Our take on the insurance mandate portion of health reform is it will have a negligible effect, if any [on retail clinic growth]. What we believe to be more important to watch is the development of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and how those ACOs will impact retail and urgent care.
On the positive side, we see ACOs partnering with retail pharmacies in different ways. One example is the partnerships MinuteClinic is forming with large health systems like the Cleveland Clinic, Allina and Catholic Healthcare West (NASDAQ:CHW). The CHW/MinuteClinic partnership is more than a simple exchange of collaborative physicians from CHW for the referral of patients from MinuteClinic that are outside of the limited-scope model.

Beyond these partnerships, where the ACOs don’t bring retail pharmacies into the fold, large health insurance companies will, as evidenced by recent deals between CVS and Aetna (NYSE:AET), and United Healthcare and Walgreens (WAG). All of these partnerships, which Walgreens Health and Wellness Division President Hal Rosenbluth refers to as “health care ecosystems,” will benefit large operators like MinuteClinic ((NYSE:CVS)), Take Care Health (Walgreens) and The Little Clinic (Kroger).

2. Market forces have been driving walk-in medicine and will continue in the industry’s favor: cost, convenience, quality and flexibility.
3. Because of the primary care physician shortage in the U.S., there is no question that retail and urgent care clinics will step in where patients have trouble finding access to good primary care physicians. In Baltimore/Washington/Northern Virginia, Patient First has evolved from an urgent-care-only clinic network to become an equally powerful brand for primary care. And retail clinic nurse practitioners are beginning to develop a following as primary care providers in markets where there is a primary care physician shortage."