The retail clinic era is over, and why pharmacy-based clinics are doomed to fail

Corporations are finding out what primary care doctors already know: it’s hard to make money only doing office visits.

CVS has announced they are closing 90 of the 550 MinuteClinic locations until next fall’s flu season.

As the WSJ Health Blog comments, “the clinics appear to be showing a pattern sort of like the dot-com bubble, in which some will go away while others survive.”

That’s not surprising in the least. Even if these clinics accept health insurance, they are finding out that primary care-style office visits are not a sustainable way to stay in business.

Clinics that rely on cash-only payments are discovering that patients are loathe to spend money on health care during a recession.

So, it appears that the demand for retail clinics has been grossly overstated. And that’s not counting a big, well-publicized, malpractice lawsuit, which I predict will be inevitable, that will finish them off.

Those that survive will be hospital-based systems, who can utilize the retail clinic model as a “loss leader” which can serve to feed a hospital’s revenue-generating services.