Trends to Follow for Medical Clinics

Laura Landro had an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this morning talking about the growth of alternative clinics: retail, work, urgent care.   She quotes a study by Renee Hsia that shows patients seeking emergency care rose by 43% from 2000-2009 while hospital emergency room visits declined 27% over the same period.

The trend is compelling for clinic operators interested in bringing services closer to patients.  Wal-Mart recently announced plans to re-expand into this space.   Currently, much of the expansion has been into retail locations (pharmacies, department stores) that see a stream of customers for other products.  However, this article also says that about 300 new urgent care clinics are opening each year.

These developments present opportunities and challenges for clinics seeking to compete for patients.  Patient acceptance of the "quick care" model in lieu of scheduled office visits or ER visits opens the potential for more patients in clinics that adopt new models for serving these customers.  As competition increases, pressure on pricing and available services will also increase.  Maintaining a broad suite of services, like medication dispensing, as well as adjustments in hours, scheduling and staffing will help clinics remain competitive.

Though these trends aren’t new, they may be accelerating.  The health care law and growing price pressures will continue to push patients and payers to creative solutions to today’s complex healthcare challenges.

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