The number of retail health clinics that have been popping up in places like drugstores for years is expected to double by the end of 2015, according to the consulting firm Accenture.
Accenture said in a report released Wednesday that a flood of newly insured patients from the national health care overhaul will help stoke demand for those clinics, which typically treat minor illnesses when a patient doesn’t have a doctor or the physician isn’t available.
Accenture unveiled the report Wednesday in Las Vegas at AHIP Institute 2013, the annual meeting of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).
Major Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) coverage access provisions, including Medicaid expansion provisions and health insurance purchase subsidy tax credit provisions, are supposed to take effect Jan. 1, 2014. Some are hoping the provision will help as many as 30 million uninsured people get health coverage.
Retail clinics could make access to care easier as the nation deals with this influx of newly insured patients and a primary care doctor shortage. The clinics are generally open for longer hours than a doctor’s office and on weekends.
They also can offer care at a lower cost than a doctor visit because they don’t come with added expenses for equipment like x-ray machines that a typical physician’s office might carry. They’re also frequently staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants instead of doctors.
The price break can be attractive to patients who gain insurance coverage that requires them to pay a bigger slice of the bill than a typical $20 co-payment for an office visit.
“The theory is these settings can offer …. a set of primary care services in a consistent way at a lower price,” said Dr. Kaveh Safavi, managing director for Accenture’s North America health business.