Healthcare reform paves the way for success of retail clinics

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT To borrow from the great Mark Twain, it would appear that the reports of the demise of retail clinic growth have been greatly exaggerated. Drug Store News has a two-word answer for why retail clinics will continue to grow for a very long time: health reform. And there are 32 million reasons why that growth will be quite dramatic.

(THE NEWS: MinuteClinic seeks to expand its presence in the healthcare world. For the full story, click here)

As the article states, MinuteClinic has indicated that it could double its current number of clinics in five years. Why? Well, aside from the aging population and a shortage of primary care physicians, a major catalyst is healthCare reform.

"Healthcare reform is a positive development for retail clinics because there are about 30 million people who are currently uninsured who will have healthcare coverage.  Add to that the aging of the population and the shortage of primary care practitioners and the opportunity for services such as those provided by MinuteClinic has the potential for growth," said Andrew Sussman, M.D., president of MinuteClinic and SVP/associate chief medical officer for CVS Caremark, in a statement sent to Drug Store News.

Peter Miller, president and CEO of Take Care Health Systems and divisional VP for Walgreens, completely agrees and in an interview with Drug Store News referred to healthcare reform as "more wind in the sails for retail clinics." Meanwhile, Kroger, which acquired The Little Clinic in February, has appointed a healthcare benefits expert from Kroger, Michael Stoll, to take the helm at The Little Clinic as CEO. Stoll has more than 30 years of experience with Kroger in corporate benefits, human resources management and store operations, which says a great deal about the direction Kroger wants to take with its clinic business.

In a statement David Dillon, chairman and CEO of Kroger, said, "The Little Clinic is an essential part of Kroger's commitment to health and wellness for all of the customers we serve. Mike's extensive experience in health care benefits and customer insight will guide us as we continue to look for innovative ways to build on the shared expertise in our clinics and our stores." Clearly, there continues to be significant growth opportunities for clinics -- both in terms of the number of clinic locations and the scope of services offered within the clinics. As mentioned earlier, there are 32 million reasons why the growth will be quite dramatic.

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