CVS Caremark Corp. has closed about 90 of its 560 MinuteClinics and plans to reopen them during the flu season and other periods of heavy demand.

CVS Caremark, CVS, MinuteClinic, MinuteClinics, Walgreen Co., in-store health clinics, health care, Tom Charland, Merchant Medicine, Take Care Clinics, Take Care Health Systems, Peter Miller, Mike Vogel

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Inside This Issue - News

CVS fine-tunes clinic strategy

April 6th, 2009

NEW YORK – CVS Caremark Corp. has closed about 90 of its 560 MinuteClinics and plans to reopen them during the flu season and other periods of heavy demand.

Most of the clinics that will now run on a seasonal schedule are within five minutes of another MinuteClinic, and nearly all are within 10 miles of at least one other clinic, according to a CVS Caremark spokeswoman.

CVS and Walgreen Co. are among the chain drug retailers that have opened in-store health clinics in the past few years. The clinics are usually staffed by nurse practitioners and are open seven days a week. They treat walk-in patients for such minor ailments as sore throats, colds, and eye and sinus infections.

Seen by the health care industry as a way to address the day-to-day health issues of uninsured Americans, the clinics are usually less expensive and more convenient than a visit to a physician’s office.

CVS MinuteClinics are currently in 53 markets nationwide, and the chain says it is not abandoning any of them, simply aligning clinic hours with patient demand. Although CVS Caremark says otherwise, some industry observers believe that the challenging economy played into CVS’ decision.

“We’re in an economic situation where cash preservation seems the utmost concern,” says Tom Charland, chief executive officer for Merchant Medicine, a consulting firm that tracks retail growth. “The closings appear to be where CVS had too much saturation to begin with.”

Charland adds that to remain viable, such clinics must make money during seasons other than winter, because much of the services they provide are related to colds and the flu.

Meanwhile, Walgreens has reiterated its commitment to its retail health clinic business model. The chain currently operates 338 Take Care Clinics in its stores.

“Invariably flu season is the busiest time for Take Care Clinics, but we are focused on providing year-round service to patients, filling a distinct need for greater access to high-quality health care,” explains Peter Miller, president and chief executive officer of Take Care Health Systems.

To that end, the company aims to take the seasonality out of the business, he points out. “We are doing this through the introduction of additional services that are being well received by our local communities,” says Miller.

The services will include such year-round offerings as health evaluations and an expanded vaccine suite; a pilot program in Tampa and Orlando, Fla., clinics aligning with Walgreens’ specialty pharmacy business; and potential opportunities to integrate with the medical community for disease stabilization services around hypertension and heart disease.