After a rocky start six years ago, retail clinics are making a comeback in Allen County.
CVS Caremark Corp. is playing the role of aggressor. It opened its third MinuteClinic in the area last week inside the CVS Pharmacy on Illinois Road, across from Scott’s grocery store on Fort Wayne’s southwest side.
Another walk-in care center is on tap for a CVS store on East Dupont Road, in the shopping center just west of Coldwater Road. The store is under construction at a former Scott’s site.
The new CVS retail clinic will be open daily and won’t require an appointment. The clinic will be staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The clinic will treat common family illnesses and injuries, give vaccinations, conduct physicals and wellness screenings, and monitor chronic conditions.
CVS also has MinuteClinic locations in Leo-Cedarville and across from Georgetown Square on East State Boulevard.
There are 38 CVS clinic locations in Indiana. The company expects to have 150 new walk-in care centers nationwide by year’s end. By 2017, the company says it will have 1,500 clinics across the country – more than double the number of sites now.
Locally, the influx is a far cry from 2007 when Affordable Basic Care leased clinic spaces inside Meijer stores on Lima and Illinois roads in Fort Wayne. That company closed its doors after seven months. While various reasons led to the stores’ demise, a lack of patients was the main cause.
But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to create a doctor shortage as 30 million newly insured Americans start looking for general practice physicians.
Retail clinic operators see an opportunity.
“There are a number of factors that are driving this, not the least of which is the addition of newly insured patients,” said Brent Burkhardt, a spokesman for CVS’ MinuteClinic division. “The epidemic of obesity and the aging baby boomer population also is fueling growth.”
Burkhardt said many people will want access to convenient care, which is what CVS can provide.
“About half of the patients we see are on the weekends, in the evenings and holidays,” he said, “so there is a need for patients to receive care” outside of traditional hours.
CVS has seen 17 million patients since MinuteClinics debuted in 2000. The company recorded more than $123 billion in revenue last year, a more 15 percent increase from a year earlier. The MinuteClinic no doubt is playing a role in the company’s fortunes.
Other retailers aren’t sitting still.
Wal-Mart, Meijer, Target and Walgreens each have clinics at select locations, although they have yet to establish any in Fort Wayne.
Walgreens, for example, has 370 Healthcare Clinics nationwide, including 24 in Indiana. The locations closest to Fort Wayne are in the Indianapolis area.
Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn said the company believes clinics are the next step in the advancement of health care. The company continues to monitor regions where clinics are feasible, he said in an email.
According to the Convenient Care Association, there are more than 1,400 retail clinics in operation in 38 states and Washington, D.C.
For retiree Joyce Perkins, that’s a good thing. According to the Convenient Care Association, the average visit at a retail clinic is $60, compared with $127 at a doctor’s office.
“Anything that could save me money, I’m all for it,” Perkins said. “I live on the southwest side, so I may try the CVS clinic.”