Survey: Retail clinic visits on the rise among U.S. adults

NEW YORK — The number of adults who are familiar with retail clinics and have used them has increased in recent years, according to a recent study by Kalorama Information, a publisher of healthcare market research.

The online survey was conducted among 2,000 U.S. adults and found that 21.3% of those surveyed have visited a retail clinic. The survey result is a significant increase over polls from six years ago, which showed that less than 10% of U.S. adults had used a clinic within a retail setting. Kalorama attributes the result to the growth of health clinics at top retail chains, growth in clinic traffic and the “bunching” of clinics in certain cities. There are currently more than 1,300 retail clinics in the United States.

The finding was made in its complete market research survey on retail clinics, "Retail Clinics 2012: Growth of Stores, Consumer Opinion Surveys, Winning Competitors, Supplier Sales of Products to Clinics, Clinic Sales Forecasts and Trends."

Kalorama noted that customers have responded well to the appointment-free service, improved hours compared with the average physician office and lower costs. A shortage of primary care physicians, rising concerns about access and costs, and now a health reform plan are all expected to send new patients to clinics. But Kalorama stated that there is still competition from primary care physicians, urgent care centers and other entities.

While the concept survived the recession and opposition from medical associations and state legislatures, Kalorama noted that there is still work to be done.

The most important development in the persistence of the retail clinic concept, according to Kalorama, is that major drug stores embraced clinics and the two largest drugstore chains in the United States —CVS Caremark and Walgreens — are competing to offer healthcare services as part of their retail strategy. The report also noted the “bunching” of retail clinics in certain cities identified for key demographics, increasing the likelihood that residents of these cities will visit a retail clinic.

"In places like Atlanta, Phoenix, Minneapolis and Chicago, there is greater competition and awareness of retail clinics because companies have made investments there," stated Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information. "In other cities, respondents right now will say that they have not been to a clinic because there isn't one close to them."