imageThe Old School retail clinic is going beyond checking your child’s ear infection and sore throat, giving immunizations and filling out back-to-school forms just-in-time over LaborDay  weekend. The new-new retail clinic is supporting patients’ chronic disease management, partnering with academic medical centers, and bolstering medication management.

Accenture’s bullish forecast is titled US Retail Health Clinics Expected to Surge by 2017,” making the case that these brick-and-mortar providers are shifting from a relatively limited retail scope to a broader and deeper clinical focus.

The so-called surge in the number of retail clinics is projected to be nearly 50% growth between 2014 and 2017, from 1,914 providers to 2,805. What’s driving the growth are:

  • Expanding services
  • Investing in health IT to ensure data capture for each patient and the ability to transmit that data through a health insurance exchange — which will enable data liquidity and continuity of care
  • Partnering with other care providers,  health insurance plans, and community organizations, which expands the retail clinic’s patient care population and offers those partners local channels to provide care in lower-cost, accessible settings.

There are four underlying consumer demand-drivers here: locally-based care (convenience), lower costs, one-stop shopping for care and prescription drugs, and shorter wait times — for people who are comparing this experience to a visit to the doctor’s office or ED, or an easy on-ramp for patients who do not have a medical home or ongoing primary care provider relationship.

IMG_1688.PNGHealth Populi’s Hot Points:  Retail clinics’ growing relationships with partners – in particular, clinical affiliations with hospital systems — is what will turbocharge the clinics’ “growing up” into providers that will integrate into the existing, legacy healthcare system. This is important for all stakeholders: the clinics to be sure, along with the health care providers such as integrated delivery systems and medical schools, health plans, and for patients. For health care providers, retail clinics can push “Pill Hill,” city hospital brands into the community closer to where people live and work, extending services and relevance to patients in their everyday life and workflows. For health plans, retail clinics represent lower-cost sites of care, helping the plans manage cost at a level of quality. Note that Kaiser is working with Target in this way.

For patients, the four demand levers are crucial, and in particular cost which continues to be #1 on the minds of consumers in general above the cost of mortgage payments, utilities, food, and gasoline at the pump.

Don’t dismiss the customer service aspect of the retail clinic, which is increasingly co-located with a pharmacy. In Gallup’s latest poll into customer service in the U.S., pharmacies and bank branches rank top two.

In my own Holy Grail of financial wellness, I imagine we’ll soon see some of those banks and financial services companies assisting patients with better planning for and managing deductibles and co-pays to bolster health plan and health financial literacy.

And in my Holiest of Holy Grails, note that grocery stores, too, enjoy a high rank of customer service among consumers…with the growing role of food and health, include the food purveyor in your ever-expanding retail health ecosystem.