Two retail medical clinics have opened in the East Valley, operated by the fledgling industry’s giant, MinuteClinic, at CVS/pharmacy stores. The openings in Gilbert and Mesa last month follow the locally owned MediMin clinics, which launched earlier this year inside Bashas’ grocery stores in Scottsdale, Peoria and west Phoenix.
The arrival of the CVS subsidiary, the largest retail provider with more than 110 clinics in 16 states, ups the competition and positions the Valley as a key market in the new wave of convenient health care spreading nationwide.
Several more MinuteClinics are scheduled to open in the next few months, said Kathryn Domenico, nurse practitioner and manager of operations in Arizona.
“We’re just trying to put quick and convenient health care in the path of our customers,” Domenico said.
“The visits that we’re providing are the same visits they would get in their family care provider’s office,” she said, “but without the wait time.”
Nationwide, there are about 150 clinics inside Walgreens, Wal-Mart and CVS pharmacies in the East, Southeast and Midwest, and thousands more expected to open in the next few years.
MinuteClinic is the largest, followed by RediClinic, which has teamed up with Wal-Mart, and Take Care, which operates inside Walgreens. The Take Care-Walgreens partnership alone is projecting 1,400 new clinics by the end of 2008.
The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners who treat common ailments and can prescribe medication, administer vaccinations and perform some blood and urine tests, as well as routine sports and jobrelated physicals.
The CVS clinics don’t yet offer physicals.
Like MediMin, MinuteClinics are open nights and weekends and typically charge between $50 and $70 per visit, or an insurance co-pay for urgent care. Patients can be in and out within 20 minutes.
Nurse practitioners at the clinics refer cases beyond their scope to urgent care, emergency rooms or the patient’s primary care physician. And, with patients’ permission, they’ll share information with other doctors.
Some family physicians are concerned that the spread of retail clinics could compromise care, since the patients typically aren’t known to the practitioners, may be uninsured and may not seek regular medical care.
But for common ailments, the clinics offer a less costly and speedier alternative to emergency rooms and crowded doctors’ offices.
“We are not looking to replace a primary medical home or a primary care provider,” Domenico said. “We are simply looking to provide relief for busy patients.”