Retail Clinics Bring Healthcare to Consumers, While Other Facilities Wait for Patients

Retail Clinics Bring Healthcare to Consumers, While Other Facilities Wait for Patients

Retail Clinic Market Blooms

It's fairly simple to understand why retail clinics can bring a revolution in healthcare.  Retail clinics upend the entire equation of healthcare.  Instead of waiting for patients to come into a healthcare facility with a condition, they are seeing consumers where they are.  This means they can fuel big change in healthcare.  There are several ways this can happen, which we can focus on in our recent report, Retail Clinics 2017: The Game-Changer in Healthcare

  • They are a lower-cost solution than the emergency room and can be used both to compete for insurance company business with high-cost ERs and also be used by healthcare organizations to reduce the traffic at the ER. 
  • As 85% of retail clinics have a physician that they have seen regularly, they are a potential boon or threat to the doctor's office. On one hand, they offer better hours on average and do provide treatment for routine services like colds and flus.  On the other hand, they they do refer patients - even to the point of suggesting the patient obtain a primary care doctor - and don't provide all services. 
  • They are already a source of focus in the in vitro diagnostics industry, as major IVDs develop testing units for both retail and urgent care clinics.  We discussed this after our visit to the American Association of Clinical Chemistry in August.  
  • They are building consumer awareness and reputation in each additional year of their existence, which is now more than 15 years, with favorable waiting times and hours.  As our report indicates, high satisfaction ratings are routinely earned. 
  • They are in the forefront of electronic medical records and technology in healthcare, introducing EMR, billing innovation and virtual waiting room technology that physician offices are only slowly adopting to.


A retail clinic is, essentially, a walk-in clinic that is located in a store.   There are 2,200 retail clinics, mostly fueled by CVS, Walgreens, Krogers, Target and a few other chains. Drug store walk-in clinic locations have boomed in recent years. Many service providers have established retail clinics. Although many of these clinics may not achieve their expansion objectives, the significant opportunities currently offered by the expanding convenience clinic market suggest that the number of players will only grow and some of these will be successful, according to the report. Furthermore, a similar proliferation of treatment facilities spurred by strong customer demand has occurred in other segments of the health care marketplace, notably the aesthetics market.

2,200 Walk-In Clinics in Retail Stores, and Climbing

The United States retail clinic market is estimated at more than $1.4 billion in 2016, an increase of over twenty percent per year from $500+ million in 2010. Through 2020, sales are expected to continue expanding. Strong historic growth has been driven by aggressive expansion, particularly by MinuteClinic, which is now owned by CVS. Other brands are expected to follow, according to this report.

Retail clinics by nature are designed to occupy small spaces and provide just basic care. Therefore, they do not use most of the sophisticated medical equipment found in hospitals or specialty centers such as advanced imaging devices. However, retail clinics are becoming relatively large users of point-of-care (POC) tests, clinical chemistry and immunoassay laboratory tests and vaccines.

In general, consumer response to convenience clinics has been strong, spurring the proliferation of clinics through a growing scale and scope of outlets. Kalorama Information’s retail clinic survey found that 54.6% of those adults who had used a retail clinic (about a quarter of the full survey) reported they were "very satisfied" with their visit; 36.3% said they were "satisfied." Only a small percentage, less than eight percent, reported they were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied." Similarly, Wal-Mart has measured customer satisfaction at about 90%. The overall high satisfaction of customers bodes well for the future of retail clinics, suggesting that they meet a strong demand in the market place and are currently fulfilling patients’ expectations.

Making the Retail Clinic Business Model Work 

The retail clinic concept has shown potential to provide inexpensive, accessible and quality medical care to consumers who otherwise would have to wait hours, days, or even weeks for care. They also provide an alternative to costly, time-consuming ER care for conditions that could have been prevented if basic health care services had been available. Rising rates of utilization, for these reasons, are leading to substantial profits for providers, which is, in turn, creating further expansion.