8 Ways to Compete Successfully With Retail Clinics

Leigh Page


February 19, 2019

In This Article

The Win-Win of Appointment Verification

Appointment verification is not only useful for patients. It also informs the practice when a patient has decided to go elsewhere instead of keeping the appointment. The practice then has a chance to fill the slot with someone else.

"Verification can be electronic or, better yet, human," LeRoy says. "If there is bad weather or some other reason for not making their appointment, call them again to see whether they are really coming in."

To further improve the patient experience, practices can also survey patients on what they expect from the practice and what services fall short.

7. Consider Switching to Direct Primary Care

Primary care practices normally can't compete with retail clinics on price, but Hellemn says the direct primary care model allows him to make his fees competitive. Because patients pay for care out-of-pocket, he has cut out the billing operation that most practices have.

"This makes us ridiculously cheap," he says. He charges $80 for an office visit and $175 for yearly check-up, including labs, which are sent out. In comparison, a nearby CVS MinuteClinic charges $99 to $129 for visits, he says.

LeRoy says the AAFP holds yearly forums to help doctors set up direct primary care practices, but still, only about 1%-2% of members have such practices.

A key problem with moving to direct care is that many existing patients drop out of the practice rather than switch over. They don't want to stop using their insurance. Hellemn, however, started his direct care practice from scratch, so he had no patients to bring over.

Before, he had been working at regular family medicine practices, and he noticed that direct care would not be much of a problem for them. "Almost all of these patients never met their deductible," he says. "They had to pay out-of-pocket anyway."

8. Emphasize Patients' Continuity of Care

LeRoy says that trying to be like retail clinics, by offering better hours and other conveniences, is only part of the challenge for PCPs who face retail clinic competition. PCPs also should make the most of how they are different from retail clinics, he says.

For example, patient-centered medical homes, which many PCPs have adopted, are the exact opposite of retail clinics. Whereas the retail clinic involves one visit, "a medical home involves helping the patient before, during, and after the visit," he says. A medical home also involves use of registries, team care across many skill sets, and application of patient data.

Even the retail clinic industry recognizes these differences. "The retail clinic could never be the patient's medical home," says Thomas Charland, CEO of Merchant Medicine. A clinic can provide test results, but it can't set down a treatment plan and follow the patient, like a primary care physician can, he says.


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