Retail health clinics have much to offer the U.S. health care system in terms of providing ready access to affordable, primary care services, according to a new study by Manatt Health on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Titled “The Value Proposition of Retail Clinics”, the report — cited on the National Association of Chain Drug Stores website — addresses the challenges and opportunities that the walk-in clinic model faces in becoming integrated into the nation’s health system. But it’s clear that the researchers are bullish on retail clinics’ potential.
“Retail clinics offer convenient, low-cost basic primary care treatment, screening and diagnostic services in a variety of settings. Increasingly, these clinics are an integral part of a U.S. health care system in the throes of massive change as payers and providers migrate toward ‘Triple Aim’ goals of improved patient care, population health and reduced cost,” the study said. “Many retail clinics are adapting their offerings to provide basic, chronic care management services and forming partnerships with area health systems in efforts to become better integrated with other community providers.”
The researchers, too, noted that the clinic model is showing itself to be complementary in a retail setting.
“Some retailers are leveraging other assets within their stores, including pharmacies and healthy foods, to create a package of enhanced services for customers and payers. A few retailers have gone a step beyond and are exploiting the enormous foot traffic they generate to offer additional services not traditionally found in their stores, including enrollment assistance and access to public nutrition programs,” the report stated.
The study concluded that “retail clinics have demonstrated that their value proposition” as a “convenient, low-cost, transparent and accessible primary care.” Now retailers are seeking ways to leverage their store environments and customer base to expand access to other health-related services.
Going forward, retail clinics face two key challenges: integrating with the health care system at large, and their economic model, according to the report.
“Retail clinics’ ability to effectively coordinate care with other health system partners and engage payers to reimburse for a more expansive set of integrated services will largely determine the greater role retail clinics and their sponsoring retailers play in our health care system,” the study said. “Retail clinics are businesses operating on thin margins, and like any other low-margin business, they must pay close attention to reimbursement for the services they provide and the direct and indirect revenue they generate for the retailer. And while retailers, health systems and payers recognize the impact of social determinants on health outcomes, most have not yet embraced initiatives that help improve population access to in-store offerings and public programs that address their nonclinical needs. These are weighty challenges. If retail clinics overcome them, they have the potential to become a much more powerful enabler of a ‘Culture of Health.'”
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