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Published on : Apr 23, 2015

The proliferation of retail health means Americans are visiting retail clinics more than 10 million times a year at 1,800-plus locations, yet this convenient and low cost care model accounts for just a fraction of primary care in the U.S. Manatt Health, a health care consulting firm, said retail clinics represent about 2% of “all primary care encounters” in the U.S. even with the cost of care at a retail clinic about one-third that of traditional outpatient settings.

According to Manatt’s study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the retail health will fuel the move to value-based health care and a culture of health, but there are various hurdles that include lack of government reimbursement.

Retail clinics, which are run by giant drugstore chains like Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS Health and Wal-Mart and grocers like Kroger KR treat routine maladies like pink eye, scrapes and bruises but are expanding into wellness and primary care like routine physical exams. The retail clinics, which are open later than a office of the doctors and on weekends, are typically run by nurse practitioners or physician assistants.

Cost of care at a retail clinic can be about US$110 for commercially insured customers though co-payments can be less while similar care at a doctor’s office is US$166, Manatt Health stated.

Manatt said broader reimbursement from government health programs like Medicare and Medicaid for certain retail health services would allow the retail clinic model to better manage populations of patients.