How a New Clinic Model Is Providing Patients Options for Care

Appeared in:
Smart Business Orange County

Patients and parents searching for less expensive, quicker and more convenient alternatives for the treatment of minor ailments and routine health care needs are finding comfort and care in retail health clinics — one of the fastest growing segments of the health care industry.

To learn more about this new concept in health care delivery, Smart Business turned to Marcia Manker, CEO of the Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, and Steve Geidt, CEO of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente.

What is a retail health clinic?

A relatively new phenomenon, retail health clinics emerging in mega-stores, grocery chains and drug stores typically operate seven days a week and are staffed by experienced nurse practitioners led by and with close oversight of physicians. Retail health clinics make health care easier for busy individuals and families by extending the continuum of care. The clinics offer walk-in care for common medical conditions like colds, flu, sore throats, earaches, sinus infections and minor wounds as well as provide vaccinations, health screenings and school physicals. No appointments are necessary, and there is little to no waiting time. The fees are low, and most retail health clinics accept insurance in addition to direct payments.

Retail health clinics can provide a convenient health care access point for common health conditions. The scope of services is limited and not meant to treat complicated cases, or high-risk, unusual or acute conditions.

Why have these emerged?

Retail health clinics are filling a gap in the nation’s health care delivery system and responding to a trend in consumer-driven health care. As most consumers experience an increase in out-of-pocket payments for health care and demand more immediate access for their routine needs, they seek new options for access to care. Retail health clinics attract both the insured and uninsured that are seeking affordable, immediate health care for minor ailments and many common conditions. Busy consumers are turning to retail health clinics as a quick and convenient option for basic medical services. How do these retail health clinics fit within the continuum of care?

While many retail health clinics were begun by corporate clinic companies and entrepreneurs whose new business centered on retail health, a number of highly regarded hospitals and health systems are partnering with retailers to meet consumer needs and expand their continuity of care offerings.

The new MemorialCare HealthExpress retail health clinics that provide care for children and adults are being placed in three ALBERTSONS/SavOn Pharmacy stores in Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo and Irvine. MemorialCare’s retail clinics make health care easier for individuals and families, whether they need minor care at a HealthExpress clinic, primary and specialty care with one of MemorialCare’s more than 3,000 affiliated physicians, or acute care in a hospital. These clinics represent another facet of our comprehensive health care in Orange and Los Angeles counties. They also link consumers seeking a health care provider with referrals to affiliated physicians. Each retail health clinic will feature an electronic medical record system to enhance patient safety by keeping health information secure and allowing medical information to be shared with physicians as well as other clinicians.

Together, MemorialCare HealthExpress clinics, affiliated physicians and 10,000 employees at our nationally recognized hospitals and outpatient settings offer comprehensive and far-reaching care to treat all conditions.

Is there research on these clinics?

An online national Harris poll for The Wall Street Journal showed that while only 7 percent of respondents had in fact visited a clinic, 92 percent of those who had were satisfied with the clinic’s convenience, 89 percent were satisfied with the quality of care they received, 88 percent were satisfied with the staff’s qualifications and 80 percent were satisfied with the cost.

What is the impact on local employers?

Retail health clinics can provide an excellent option for a work force seeking access to convenient and affordable routine care, allowing employees and their families to stay healthy while on the go. With minimal waiting time for treatment, these in-store clinics can reduce time away from work, increase productivity and reduce the employer’s medical and benefits costs.

To further assist local companies that promote healthier lifestyles for employees, the MemorialCare Health System hospitals also provide educational programs and screenings at the worksite, on the campuses of its medical centers and in locations throughout the region. This website offers free online tools, calculators, guides and referrals to physicians that can help your work force reach the goal of a healthier life.

Marcia Manker is CEO of Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley. Steve Geidt is CEO of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente.