When retail health clinics first came onto the scene a few years ago, they handled consternation and complaints from the medical community by promising that they would treat simple illnesses such as ear aches and allow consumers to fill prescriptions at the on-site pharmacies. The walk-in nature of the clinics meant consumers would no longer have to wait hours to see a medical professional. Meanwhile, physicians and hospitals would continue to treat more complex health care problems. The realities of the medical marketplace have crimped the profitability of these clinics and many are increasing the kinds of services they’re providing to consumers.
The new services being offered vary by location but might include:
- Diabetes management
- Drug injections for asthma or osteoporosis
- Skin care counseling and solution recommendations
Because these clinics offer expanded service hours and are numerous enough in some markets, over 1,000 operate nationwide, physician groups are once again pressuring legislators to prevent “fragmented, drive-through care.” A recent Wall Street Journal article on this topic notes that traditional medical service providers are being forced to expand coverage hours to compete with the walk-in clinics. While the national debate on health care rages, doctors, clinics and hospitals may be increasing their ad budgets to compete for patients who have a growing numbers of providers to choose from.[Source: Merrick, Amy. Retail Health Clinics Move to Treat Complex Illnesses,” Wall Street Journal, 9.10.09]