Reports on the demise of the retail health clinic aren’t reading the tea leaves right, says Deloitte’s Center for Health Solutions.

While total retail clinics in operation numbered just over 1,000 in 2009, with modest growth since 2007, Deloitte forecasts growth exceeding 3,000 clinics by 2014.

MinuteClinic and Take Care make up 72% of clinic market share in the U.S. The remainder of the clinic market is quite fragmented, with Wal-Mart taking on a hybrid model (both operating and sharing operations with local health systems). The majority of clinics are co-located in pharmacies.

What’s going to drive accelerating growth of retail clinics after 2010 to 2014?

Health plans’ reimbursement of clinic visits. It helps to follow the money. Health plans have begun to cover retail clinic visits as they see cost savings, evidence-based practices, and enrollee satisfaction.

Consumer awareness and adoption. HarrisInteractive’s surveys have shown an uptick in Americans’ acceptance of the retail clinic concept in terms of staff and service quality.

New channels beyond the pharmacy. As clinics locate to even more convenient locales, such as worksites and big-box discounters, more consumers will utilize them.

Health care is local. Health citizens may have a preference for locally branded and operated retail clinics. Mayo, Intermountain Healthcare, and The Cleveland Clinic have piloted retail sites and health consumers like the fact that these operators can provide back-up in case of emergency or the need for ancillary referral services.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Deloitte says we’re entering the second wave of retail clinic expansion toward 2014. What could be obstacles to getting to the 3,000+ clinics are the limited supply of primary care health workers and pressures from pricing and regulation.

Ultimately, retail health is heavily driven by consumer demand. As Americans take on more out-of-pocket cost and fiscal responsibility for their health care decisions, the more they will look to convenient, quality health sites and providers. Those retail clinics that can be locally branded (or branded by a quality health imprimatur like Mayo) and deliver on a consumer-friendly value proposition, from the parking lot through the health outcome, will make it in Wave 2 of the retail clinic evolution.