What's Going On With Retail Medical Clinics?

Retail medical clinics — you know, those little offices in places like Walmart that promise to treat minor ailments in the amount of time it takes to check out on the express line — have been around for a few years, but haven’t exactly won over tons of customers from the neighborhood GP. Now, it looks like they’re about to take off in a big way. Or collapse. Or do nothing. That’s what happens when you get a second opinion about the fact that Kroger is closing 20 of its Little Clinic branches.

The Cincinnati Business Courier sees a slowing pulse:

“Many people are looking at the industry and wondering where it will go,” said Tom Charland, CEO of Merchant Medicine, a Shoreview, Minn.-based consulting firm that helps to start retail and on-site employee clinics. “We continue to see clinics close because they’re not able to get to break-even.”

Meanwhile, the medics over at Cincinnati.com see an industry that’s positively glowing with health:

Because so many more people may soon have access to health insurance under new federal legislation, they’ll need more options for using it. Kroger began opening Little Clinics in its stores in 2003. In 2008, the grocer took partial ownership in the chain, which eventually built to 100. The clinics typically perform vaccinations, physicals and exams for high school athletes. They diagnose common illnesses such as flus, ear infections and colds. And they accept most insurance plans.

So, what’s really going on in these mini-clinics? Not a whole lot, according to one consultant contacted by Cincinnati.com: “One of the problems you have is they really can’t do a whole lot for people,” says Dave Livingston, a supermarket consultant in Wisconsin. “Most of the things you can do by yourself, like treat colds, pink eye. And if it’s a big problem, they’re just going to refer you to a doctor.”

And, of course, if you treat yourself at home, you don’t have to worry about anyone checking your receipt on the way out.

Kroger taking second look at Little Clinics [Cincinnati.Com]
Consumers aren’t sold on retail health-care clinics [Cincinnati Business Courier]