The Evolution of Retail Clinics in the United States, 2006-2012

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Abstract

In the recent decade, retail clinics have emerged to offer routine preventative and acute care services by nonphysician providers, with predictable wait times, more convenient venues, and posted prices. This article evaluates the evolution of retail clinics between 2006 and 2012 and examines the yearly openings and closings of clinics by location, owner, operator, and other important characteristics. The Merchant Medicine database was used. It is the only database of its kind that includes every retail clinic opening and closing since 2006. The data are collected on a monthly basis through operator self-report, telephone calls to operators, and monitoring of operator Web sites and articles in local newspapers. A growth period of 2006 through 2008 can be attributed to what was referred to at the time as a “land grab,” in which competing operators sought to be the first to open in new markets. In 2008, with the start of the general economic recession, numerous clinics shut down during the slow spring and summer months and others closed altogether. The industry remains dominated by large retail pharmacy operators, and the involvement of hospital systems in retail clinic ownership is a recent and interesting phenomenon. An important question to address is the following: Will retail clinics remain as just a convenient way for busy insured patients to seek care afterhours and on weekends, or can they have a more significant impact in a primary care system on the brink of collapse?

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