Physicians are up against the retail health-care options that are bringing a new type of competition where patients find that it is more convenient to go to a retail market than waiting at a physician’s office. The entrance of Amazon, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens into the retail health market is causing a disruption across the country. Walmart now operates medical clinics in Arkansas, Georgia and Illinois, with more coming in Florida, offering everything from primary and urgent care to labs, X-rays and diagnostics.
Retail clinics can be beneficial and that’s why they’re growing. The ongoing shortage of primary-care physicians often creates long waits for an appointment or waiting time in the office and urgently with Covid testing required by the schools many pediatricians are challenged by scheduling normal pediatric well visits and immunizations. If that operation could be ceded to a retail clinic, that’s the type of thing that would be beneficial.
Currently, Walgreens operates 15 markets in 12 states in partnership with VillageMD, providing primary care alongside pharmacy services. CVS Minute Clinics operate across the country with walk-in clinics to treat minor injuries and administer vaccinations, screenings, and physicals. Amazon launched a program for its employees last year and recently it has expanded to the general public replicating a strategy the company has used in other initiatives. The program has both online service with real time communication with health professionals through an app and an in-person service that can dispatch doctors and caregivers to homes as well as deliver prescriptions. They are in the process of rolling out the online portion while the in-person component is still being tested in select market places. This much like days gone by where physicians used to make house calls with more personalized care.
Retail clinics could take some of the pressure off for routine visits or less severe/lower acuity care that can back up a primary-care practice schedule. The healthcare landscape is changing, and it will take time to see all of the benefits for both clinics and their patients.