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Retail health clinic growth projected to double
June 12th, 2013
LAS VEGAS – The number of U.S. retail health clinics stands to double over the next three years with the influx of newly insured patients under health care reform, according to a report from management consulting firm Accenture.
Accenture said Wednesday that between now and 2015, the number of retail clinics will grow 20% to 25% annually, doubling from 1,418 to 2,868.
The consultancy released the report, titled "Retail Medical Clinics: From Foe to Friend?", at the annual America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2013 in Las Vegas.
According to the report, the rising number of retail health clinics and walk-in medical facilities located in pharmacies and retail chains will drive an estimated $800 million in annual cost savings by 2015 and add capacity for 10.8 million patient visits per year, compared with 5.1 million in 2011.
Accenture's analysis also noted that the number of patient visits at retail clinics is expected to account for 10% of non-primary care outpatient visits by the end of 2015.
"Despite that initial growth of retail clinics was halted short of market expectations in 2009, health care reform will trigger a significant demand from millions of newly insured patients," Kaveh Safavi, managing director for Accenture's North America health business, said in a statement. "The convergence of retail convenience with walk-in care services will provide a 'release valve' for strained health systems as they handle the influx of new patients."
Retail clinics experienced a five-year trend of rapid growth from 2003 to 2008, ranging from 50% to 92% each year. But growth in the sector stalled thereafter, falling to just 2% annually from 2008 to 2012.
"Although primary care physicians and hospitals once regarded retail clinics as a business threat, in a post-reform landscape they are viewed as critical to facilitating future growth," Safavi pointed out. "In fact, retail clinics will reduce capacity constraints by referring lower-acuity patients to clinics while ensuring hospitals have capacity for more complex cases."
A two-year retail clinic growth rate of nearly 15% during 2011 and 2012 represented a "reversal of fortune" for the sector, the Accenture report said. Factors now fostering the growth of retail clinics, according to the report, include affiliations between retail clinics and hospitals, partnerships between retail clinics and primary care doctors, and improved relations between retail clinics and insurers and health plan providers.
It's estimated that starting in 2014, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act health reform law, more than 30 million Americans previously lacking health insurance will be able to buy health plans through state insurance exchanges or get coverage via broader Medicaid eligibility.