Can You Really Compete With Retail Clinics -- and Succeed?

Leigh Page


March 18, 2015

In This Article

Will Doctors Start Cooperating With Clinics?

Retail clinics are now trying to build relationships with hospitals and physicians. In the past few years, they have signed affiliation agreements with health systems in each market they operate in. CVS clinics, at last count, had affiliations with 32 health systems, including the Cleveland Clinic, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and Emory Healthcare. And Walgreens has agreements with SSM Health Care in St Louis, Orlando Health in Florida, and several others.

These agreements don't talk about referrals of patients from retail clinics to doctors in the health systems. This could be very lucrative to the health systems, but a formal agreement on them could possibly violate the federal anti-kickback law. Instead, the affiliation agreements are limited to such matters as sharing electronic medical record systems, providing physician-supervisors for NPs in the clinics, and enhancing communication between practices and retail clinics. 

Charland sees the agreements as the first stage of more extensive participation in integrated networks. Already, Walgreens is partnering on three separate ACOs with health systems, including Scott & White Healthcare in Texas.

Physicians, however, are still deeply divided over cooperating with retail clinics. In a 2013 poll[21] by athenahealth, 17% of doctors said they would exchange data with the clinics, 11% said they would accept referrals from them, 7% said they would direct after-hours patients to the clinics, and 39% said they would do all three.

On the other hand, 26% said they would do "none of the above." And, in another question in the poll, nearly 40% said retail clinics "take business away from PCPs without delivering the same quality of care."

Clearly, many doctors are not ready to work with retail clinics, but clinic promoters are hopeful these attitudes will thaw over time. "Things are quieter now," Charland said. "You hear a lot less passion about retail clinics than when they first came out."


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