Insured patients are increasingly turning to the convenience of drugstore clinics like Minute Clinic and other medical resources outside the traditional doctor's office setting when they can't schedule day-of appointments with their primary-care provider. Some without health insurance say they find them a faster, less pricey alternative to urgent care or emergency room visits. Almost half of Minute Clinic's clientele don't have a primary-care doctor of their own.
There are about 1,250 retail-based convenient care clinics in the USA. Two-thirds are in drug stores and one-third are in retail settings, such as Wal-Mart and Target, and supermarket chains. The growth has been significant: in 2006, there were only 175 such locations.
The proliferation of independent care clinics is also a wake-up call for family physicians, says internist David Winter. "We can get our act together and make it possible for our patients to get in sooner than six weeks."
MP: Isn't competition great?