More Walk-In Clinics Affiliated With Hospitals, Medical Centers
The number of hospitals in the U.S. that are affiliated with walk-in clinics in large retail chains, such as Wal-Mart or CVS, is rising, as hospitals view the collaborations as a means of expanding their business, the New York Times reports. There currently are more than 1,000 such clinics in the U.S. Although few of the clinics, which began appearing in 2005, were initially affiliated with hospitals or medical centers, one in 10 now holds connections to such facilities, according to Merchant Medicine. According to the Times, many more of the clinics are planned. The Times reports that more than 25 Wal-Mart clinics currently are affiliated with hospitals, including the Christus Medical Group in Texas, Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin and CoxHealth in Missouri. The Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic also have joined with similar retail clinics, after employees and patients expressed an interest in expedient treatment for minor medical conditions.
Hospital retail clinics typically are staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants and supervised by physicians remotely. The clinics often operate at a relatively low cost compared with primary care doctors' offices or emergency departments, according to the Times. The clinics typically only serve insured patients or those who can fully pay for the service, unlike EDs, where it is illegal to turn away patients based on their ability to pay. In addition, the clinics help clear hospital EDs of people seeking basic medical care. Retail clinics also offer marketing opportunities for hospitals, helping to create relationships with customers who eventually might need more profitable in-hospital care. The Times reports that while many primary care physicians still consider retail clinics as "cheap, unworthy competitors," hospitals say they provide a vital public service during the current economic recession. Hospitals also say that the clinics provide access for patients amid a decline in the number of primary care physicians in the U.S. (Freudenheim , New York Times, 5/12).
Wal-Mart Rebuilding Clinic Business With Hospitals
In related news, Wal-Mart currently is attempting to rebuild its medical clinic business after 51 of its 78 clinics closed by the end of 2008, the Times reports. Wal-Mart had said it planned to have 400 walk-in clinics in operation by 2010, but the plan "went into reverse" in December 2008 when RediClinic -- a privately held company tasked with "a big role" in the project -- unexpectedly closed its 15 Wal-Mart centers, the Times reports. Wal-Mart now is looking to reopen many of its clinics with affiliations to hospitals and medical centers. Wal-Mart currently has 33 clinics in the U.S., 26 of which are affiliated with hospitals (Freudenheim , New York Times, 5/12).