The number of retail health clinics nationwide is expected to grow sharply in the next few years as tens of millions of uninsured U.S. residents gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new study.
According to Accenture researchers, the growth rate of in-store health clinics was between 50% and 150% from 2001 to 2008, with the exception of 2005 when the growth rate shot up to 442%. In 2009 and 2010, the growth rate fell sharply to between just 1% and 3%. However, the rate has picked up in the past couple of years, reaching 14.7% in 2011 and 2012, the researchers found.
In the coming years, the number of walk-in medical clinics at big box retail stores is expected to increase by an annual rate of 25% to 30%, according to the new Accenture report. That growth would raise the overall number of retail clinics from about 1,400 in 2012 to more than 2,800 by 2015.
Accenture's Kaveh Safavi said the retail clinics could serve as a "release valve" for primary care providers and hospitals that could be strained as the influx of newly insured consumers enters the market. The Accenture report notes that hospitals and primary care physicians are warming to the idea of collaborating with retail clinics.
According to the report, retail clinics could handle about 10.8 million patient visits annually and account for 10% of non-primary care outpatient visits by the end of 2015. The trend could generate up to $800 million in health care savings because retail clinics generally are less expensive than other medical settings.
The report states that "the very clinics once perceived as rivals [by physician groups] may represent a key tool for managing patient volume while more conventional health providers focus on higher acuity and more complex treatments" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/12; Pittman, MedPage Today, 6/12' CQ HealthBeat, 6/12).
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