The Growth Channel

Retail clinic use growing but still low: Here’s how to beat the 3% mark


Emilia Thurber, Marketing and Planning Leadership Council

While retail clinic utilization more than doubled between 2007 and 2010, only a small portion of the population—2.9% of families in 2010—reported using a retail clinic in the past year. Usage was particularly low among patients aged 65 and older (1.2%), single adults (2.3%), and childless couples (2.3%). 

Our research indicates that low utilization can largely be attributed to three barriers:

  1. Lack of awareness: Many patients are unaware of the retail clinics in their area and seek care at their physician’s office or the ED instead
  2. Lack of knowledge: Patients do not understand which conditions retail clinics can treat, whether the visit will be covered by insurance, or whether they need an appointment
  3. Lack of trust: Patients question the quality of care provided by non-physician practitioners in a nontraditional setting

As provider organizations become more involved in the retail clinic space – the percentage of clinics owned by hospitals and health systems doubled from 9% to 18% between 2007 and 2010, and many other providers have affiliations with large chains like MinuteClinic—they must address these barriers by:


1. Elevating facility visibility

Finding the right location is key for retail clinics to increase visibility, ensure patient convenience, capture attractive populations, and generate sufficient demand.  

While finding the optimal location for your clinic may seem daunting, some providers are simplifying the geolocation process by piggybacking on the work done by larger retail chains using the “Starbucks shortcut.” 


2. Streamlining network access

As providers expand primary care access points, navigating more – and more diverse - options can be confusing for patients. Providers must explain the options and offer guidance around when it is most appropriate to use each care setting.

HealthPartners provides this guidance through their “Call, Click, or Come In” campaign. They offer a single page on their website where patients can view all of their primary care options. For each option, the site lists the conditions that can be treated and price, as well as links to scheduling, hours, and location information. This site provides patients with all of the information they need in one easy-to-find, centralized location.




3. Highlighting exceptional care quality

Despite providers’ best efforts to track and publicly report quality and satisfaction metrics, many patients continue to rely on quality proxies, such as provider credentials, when evaluating new care sites. For example, patients who are unfamiliar with midlevel providers and their qualifications may shy away from clinics staffed by nurse practitioners.  

To educate patients about midlevel providers, the Healthcare Clinic, a retail clinic provider and subsidiary of Walgreens, guides website visitors through comprehensive information. First, the site explains the role of their nurse practitioners by describing their educational requirements and scope of practice. 

It then builds providers’ credibility by offering past patient reviews from across the nation as well as patient engagement and quality scores organized by metropolitan area and compared to national benchmarks.


More from the Marketing and Planning Leadership Council

Do you want to create the perfect marketing strategy for your primary care network? Learn how to target outreach to key demographic groups, promote word of mouth referrals, and create a flawless service experience in our publication, Marketing Primary Care.