Just as the mainstream press got used to the idea that retail clinics were The Next Big Thing, the American Association of Family Practice solidified its statement on the concept, and health plans began to pay for visits to them, their growth has begun to slow.
According to Merchant Medicine, an advisory company to the retail health industry, the number of retail clinics fell by 12 in June 2008, to 969 from 981.
According to the CEO of Merchant Medicine, “It was the first month we saw a net drop” since the company began tracking clinic growth two years ago.
In mid-2007, retail clinics opened at a rate of one a day, according to Merchant Medicine.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Perhaps retail clinics are a reflection of other retail categories where spending may be declining as consumers’ wallets are allocating a larger and larger share to the Basic Needs — food, shelter, clean water.
Oops! The necessities for the American Consumer are gas, (yes) food, ballooning mortgage payments, and minimum monthly credit card payments.
Retail health clinic care may not fall into this spending category for most Americans, at least for now. There is evidence from the Center for Studying Health System Change that many people postponed their consumption of various health care services between 2003 and 2007 contributed to in part by health care costs increasing more rapidly than incomes. See CSHSC’s Tracking Report Falling Behind: Americans’ Access to Medical Care Deteriorates, 2003-2007, published in June 2008, for more details on consumers’ cost pressures and health care delays.
Now, on a personal note: I noticed yesterday that my local CVS is renovating to house a new Minute Clinic.
I went to CVS to pick up a prescription for my husband which had been phoned in by his physician’s office for a patient named “Kune” (instead of “Kahn”). This mistaken identity meant that the script wasn’t ready as CVS didn’t have a “Kune” on file in their prescription drug claims system. I couldn’t wait around for the pharmacist to phone the doctor’s office to reconcile the name change and for the package to be filled — it would have taken 15 minutes, at which point I had to be somewhere else.
As part of the health care marketer’s desirable 360° consumer experience, this was a wholly unsatisfying pharmacy encounter. Forget the Minute Clinic — I want my eRx!