Tuesday, January 25, 2011

MinuteClinic Goes Viral, It Plans to Double the Number of Its Retail Clinics Over the Next 5 Years

DRUG STORE NEWS — "CVS Caremark's retail-based clinic operator, MinuteClinic, is experiencing exponential gains in utilization and posted a 22% increase in acute visits during the past year, according to Larry Merlo, CVS Caremark president and COO.
The increase, which reflects visits in comparable clinic locations, is especially significant in light of the lack of flu-related illnesses. MinuteClinic currently operates more than 550 clinics in 55 markets and, going forward, its important role in the U.S. healthcare system undoubtedly will grow increasingly vital. 

"Going forward, MinuteClinic will take on added significance," Merlo told investors. "Think about the growing shortage of the primary care physician population, along with the 32 million uninsured coming online with some type of coverage beginning in 2014."

MinuteClinic is gearing up to meet the increased demand by opening more clinics at a rate of about 100 clinics per year, beginning this year. This growth plan will enable the company to double the number of clinic locations over the next five years. By 2015, MinuteClinic estimated it will operate about 1,060 clinics in 100 markets."

MP: Maybe this is how we'll deal with the coming doctor shortage


At 1/25/2011 4:55 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Yeah, and maybe the next time I have to have 4 strong men carry me out of the house and put me in an ambulance I'll tell them to go to the nearest CVS.

At 1/25/2011 5:33 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

It does raise interesting questions--with skilled diagnosis, do you really need to see a doctor?

At 1/25/2011 6:13 PM, Blogger David J said...

Do you have any info about how the numbers in Physicians Assistants have changed? My understanding that this is a growing job that wasn't too prevalent awhile ago, maybe that is part of the solution.

At 1/26/2011 11:12 AM, Blogger Anonymous Bosh said...


As an under-50 male, I have visited the doctor maybe... I dunno... maybe 25 times in the last 25 years, and only ONCE for an "emergency" (turned out to be pneumonia). Other things were scary colds, strep, sinusitis, that sort of thing--for which MinuteClinic is not only adequate, but preferable to the "An emergency? How's next Thursday?" response from my "primary care" physician.

Indeed, roughly 80% of the time I went to see my "doctor," I ended up seeing the nurse anyway.
I am a big fan of market based solutions.

Also, as I noted in my other post on this topic: I am, relatively speaking, highly paid. My firm just changed to a "high deductible" plan (but thoughtfully handed us $2500 in an HSA toward the $5000 family deductible), so suddenly, yes, I am comparison shopping.

When I need an ambulance, that will be there too, as will all the specialists I am likely to need.

At 1/27/2011 4:23 PM, Blogger TMLutas said...

The differentiator between a minute clinic operation and a primary care physician is that a properly run primary care operation will provide continuity of care in ways that minute clinic operations simply can't. That doesn't mean that impersonal practices that pass you around from nurse practitioner to MA and a rotating roster of doctors wouldn't be threatened by the minute clinic but those shops are travesties of what a primary care operation is supposed to be.

At 1/27/2011 4:56 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"[minute clinic]...but those shops are travesties of what a primary care operation is supposed to be.""

Travesties? Perhaps you misunderstand the role of such clinics. They are able to diagnose and treat simple conditions quickly and easily, at a lower price. They can, in effect, act as screeners for physicians, allowing them to spend time on people and their problems that require more advanced medical expertise.

I would expect something requiring continuity of care to be referred to a physician. Do you really want to waste your doctors time diagnosing your cold?

If there is a shortage of doctors, these clinics seem like a great way to handle some of the work that doesn't really require a doctor.

At 1/27/2011 5:11 PM, Blogger submandave said...

Ron, I believe you are misidentifying the subject of TMLutas' remark. As I read it, "those shops" refers to medical practices with dozens of doctors and LPNs where the patient rarely sees the same medical provider twice. The only difference I see between that sort of impersonal doctor vending machine sort of place and places like MinuteClinic is (possible) better retention and access to historical medical records, allowing better trending and consideration for chronic conditions in diagnosis.

At 1/27/2011 5:33 PM, Blogger Radish said...

"Do you really want to waste your doctors time diagnosing your cold?"

I'm sure the answer will be "Yeah, since someone else (Medicare or insurance) is paying for it."

At 1/27/2011 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the MinuteClinic lives up to its name, then the practitioner at the clinic will have seen me for about 35 seconds more than any doctor does when I go to an emergency room.

At 1/27/2011 6:26 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Ron, I believe you are misidentifying the subject of TMLutas' remark. As I read it, "those shops" refers to medical practices with dozens of doctors and LPNs where the patient rarely sees the same medical provider twice."

After careful rereading, I see that you're right. Please disregard my prior comment. :-) I still believe the basic premise is correct, but it doesn't apply to TMLutas' remark.

At 1/27/2011 7:09 PM, Blogger Nancy Reyes said...

it's convenient for the well with colds etc. But it's lousy medicine.

Half the folks we docs see have chronic problems, and often social ones, and having a primary care physicain or equivalent is important for these folks.

Is grandmom's diabetes out of control because she "forgot to take her pills" or because her druggie son stole her social security check again? Multiply this times three for her percocet.

And that teenager with a simple UTI might actually have "honeymoon cystitis" and actually needs a pap smear, and STD check, a pregnancy test and a lot of counseling.

Seeing minor things establishes a relationship and trust. That relationship is part of the "art" of medicine, and is being destroyed by the economic ethic of modern medical care.

At 1/27/2011 8:48 PM, Blogger Luther said...

Yes, boinky. Which is why the 'family' half of 'family doctor' is so important.

At 1/27/2011 8:48 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

Anonymous Bosh said...

Medicine is one place you don't play with being a statistical outlier.

At 1/27/2011 9:18 PM, Blogger Douglas2 said...

I had an allergy attack so severe that I could not work, on a day that the practice of my primary care physician was closed. So I went to one of these clinics. The evaluation (with the aid of an expert-system software package) was quite thorough, the wait was extremely short, and I left with prescription in hand to take to my normal pharmacy. I was in and out in less time than I have ever experienced with a physician before.
In the future when I am at home I still plan to use my primary care practice when they are open, but for parts of the year I am rarely home.
Now before I travel within the US I check online the availability of these at my destination.
There are a few places where I travel regularly that do not yet have minute-clinics, so my two hopes are that they expand to those areas and that they retain the quality in spite of the major expansion.

At 1/27/2011 9:29 PM, Blogger tom scott said...

I think that used in conjunction with the self test finger stick labs that this can be a time saver as well as money saver.
For example, I'm currently hypothyroid. Symptoms: thinning eyebrows, fatigue, cold feet, low temps (both basel and daytime). I am compiling a temp chart prior to seeing my GP. I could get ZRT to give me test results showing TSH, T3, T4 and possible rule out Hashimoto's disease (a form of hypothyroisism.) Then go to a MinuteClinic for a rapid diagnosis and possible referral.
ZRT: http://www.zrtlab.com/
I could forgo the GP visit, scheduled blood test and 15 minutes of consultation in which I learn little.


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