June 2016: Retail Clinics Revisited – Health Systems Are Showing a Renewed Interest

Unlike the urgent care market, the retail clinic market has seen inconsistent growth since its beginning in 2000. From 2005 to 2007 the market expanded rapidly. From 2008 to 2011 there were a host of closures, not only by venture-funded upstarts, but by some of the major retailers. More recently, some operators have grown consistently, such as MinuteClinic, The Little Clinic and RediClinic. But others seem to be in a holding pattern, such as Walmart, or are moving in a different direction, such as Walgreens. And one operator, Target Clinic, has gotten out of the business altogether.

More revealing is that our data on closures shows that more than 50 percent of retail clinics operated by health systems, most in Walmart or regional grocery chains, have closed.

Yet in the last year there has been renewed interest in operating retail clinics by health systems. This article will first explore the challenges associated with this particular type of walk-in platform and then address the factors that are causing this renewed interest by health systems.

Retail Clinic Challenges

Anyone with retail clinic experience will tell you that, despite seeming so simple, it is not an easy business. Granted, much of the patient traffic is for simple illnesses like sore throats, pink eye, sinus infections, bladder infections and ear aches. And these are low-acuity visits that can be handled with predictable workflow and fairly consistent clinical guidelines.