8 Ways to Compete Successfully With Retail Clinics

Leigh Page


February 19, 2019

In This Article

Streamline Check-in to Check-out

Walk-in clinics within practices can also reduce the duration of the appointment, which is one crucial reason why patients like retail clinics. In a 2013 study, the total time for a retail clinic visit, from check-in to check-out, was 32 minutes, compared with 81.9 minutes at physicians' offices.[6]

What is the risk of having a walk-in clinic? The risk is that patients will not call up for same-day appointments, or drop by and walk in, and the physician will lose revenue for lack of patient visits.

If you implement a walk-in clinic, it's important to continually remind your patient base that it is available, whether by regularly sending emails or notifications, or perhaps even a robocall to their home.

5. Provide Vaccinations, Once a Staple of Primary Care

Retail clinics and chain pharmacies have thrived on providing flu vaccinations, which don't require the patient to pay anything out-of-pocket. The zero-percent cost share was stipulated by the Affordable Care Act. In just a couple of years, retail clinics and pharmacy chains had snapped up much of the flu shot business.

According to a 2012 survey, 1.8 million shots were administered in retail clinic visits, involving 40% of their visits.[7] Also in 2012, Walgreens pharmacists, independent of Walgreens retail clinics, were providing 5.5 million flu shots a year, according to the company.[8] In fact, some small primary care practices have said they no longer stock flu shots, and recommend to patients that they get them at a retail clinic.

However, LeRoy believes primary care practices don't have to, and probably should not, cede flu shots. Although the reimbursement from providing such shots is low, they provide a valuable opportunity to check on patients for any other problems, in addition to being an added source of revenue, he says.

Practices can contact patients, asking them to come in for flu shots. He suggests sending out invitations to patients to come to the practice for a special flu shot clinic. Practices that have a robust email list or patient portal often find it easier to communicate with patients.

6. Add Conveniences That Patients Like

To beat retail clinics at their own game, practices can also offer extra help for patients, such as estimates of charges, patient portals, appointment verification, and blogs with important medical information. With these conveniences, patients may be much less likely to stray to retail clinics.

LeRoy says patient portals—confidential online sites that patients can access for lab results, appointment scheduling, and other matters—are particularly useful. He says 7 in 10 members of the AAFP have Web portals, according to an AAFP survey.


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