The increasing popularity of retail clinics to provide basic care is bring driven by many factors, including consumer interest in transparency, cost, and convenience. Malls are beneficiaries of the shift.
When The American Journal of Managed Care published a study last fall that found retail clinics could provide routine care that was as good, and in some cases better, than care provided in the emergency room, it opened a window on potential relief valve for some pressing issues in primary care.
As more Americans gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), some face issues over access to care despite their newfound coverage. That’s because the ACA doesn’t solve the shortage of primary care physicians, especially those willing to accept Medicaid from consumers who have gained coverage under Medicaid expansion.
Other consumers, both those covered through exchanges or through their employers, face the realities of increasing cost-sharing, which can lead to high deductibles depending on how a plan is structured.
Both trends have altered consumer behavior, and the very nature of how healthcare is purchased. Increasingly, the most important “buyer” may not be the large employer choosing a plan for several hundred families, but the individual who has to make decisions at the retail level. And “retail” increasingly is the healthcare option. In a sign of the times, a trade association, the Convenient Care Association, has sprung up to represent the interests of retail clinics.
“MinuteClinics” such as those at CVS and other forms are occupying abandoned spaces in malls, taking advantage of the access to foot traffic and signage opportunities to put themselves where the people are. Mall owners, some truly battered by high vacancy rates after the recession years, are often happy to have these new tenants, who are seen as stable suppliers of their own foot traffic that other tenants appreciate.
Convenience, affordability, and transparency are selling points. And, rather than see the retail clinic as a competitor to the emergency room, some hospitals are creating their own, extending the brand into community and reducing the burden on their own emergency departments.
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