Retail clinics—walk-in health clinics within pharmacies or other stores—are proliferating rapidly. There are now more than 1,700 in cities across the United States, a number that has increased more than 20 percent in the last year alone. Today the company with the largest presence in this market is CVS Health, which operates nearly 900 Minute Clinics in 27 states, with plans to open 150 more in the next year. So far, such clinics have served more than 20 million patients. Typical services include diagnosis and treatment of common infections, vaccinations, treatment for minor injuries, and routine lab tests.
But soon the biggest presence among retail clinics may turn out to be Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. At the moment, Walmart operates only about 100 such facilities in 18 states, but it plans to expand in the future. Currently, CVS charges between $79 and $99 for most services, and standard fees for lab tests run between $20 and $40. Walmart has announced plans to charge $40 per patient visit and $8 for routine laboratory tests.
Cost is clearly a major factor in the rapid growth of retail clinics. Most such clinics operate out of existing retail space, employ nurse practitioners or physician assistants instead of physicians, and offer a more limited range of services than a typical doctor’s office. As a result, a visit to a primary-care physician’s office typically costs twice as much as a visit to a retail clinic. Another factor is price transparency. Retail clinics typically post their prices for routine services, so there are no surprises when patients receive their bill.