In-store health clinics are going through a rapid expansion. Driven by the increased numbers of people with medical insurance, a shortage of primary care doctors, and people seeking convenient access to care, the retail health clinic business is booming. Now, Kaiser Permanente is opening convenient health clinics in four Southern California Target stores that will serve not only the HMO’s insureds but also people with rival insurance coverage.
Kaiser health clinics opened yesterday within Target stores in Fontana, San Diego and Vista. They will open another clinic soon in their Fullerton store. For Kaiser, the clinics are a new venture and a way to serve the growing numbers of insureds who have enrolled in the HMO through Affordable Care Act plans.
In-store medical clinics provide convenience for customers seeking treatment on weekends or in the evening. They offer physicals, treatments for children’s ear infections and care that does not need X-rays, critical care or specialists. Kaiser and Target have announced their clinics will also offer pediatric checkups, well-woman exams, family planning and help with managing chronic conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes. Studies have shown that the retail-store health facilities treat patients with similar quality for 30 to 40 percent less than similar care provided in a doctor’s office.
Kaiser plans to operate the new facilities with licensed nurse practitioners as well as vocational nurses. They will have physicians available remotely to provide consultations.
Approximately 200 in-store health clinics have opened in the U.S. so far this year bringing the total to over 1,800. Besides the Kaiser clinics in Southern California, Target operates a “Target Clinic” in 79 stores across seven states. Large retail pharmacy chain CVS has put more than 800 of its MinuteClinics in stores in 28 states since 2000. In the San Diego area that features the new Target and Kaiser store clinics, CVS and Sharp HealthCare inked a deal to collaborate on 10 of the MinuteClinics in that county. Palomar Health has set up a couple of Expresscare clinics in Albertsons supermarkets. There are other examples elsewhere in the country.
Generally, in-store health facilities accept cash and most major insurance policies. Kaiser Permanente doctors, clinics and their own network of hospitals traditionally have only provided care to its 7.3 million Kaiser members or emergency patients when it is the nearest trauma center available. However, the plan with the new Target collaboration is to provide care to those with Kaiser coverage, those covered by rival carriers (a first for Kaiser) and those who want to pay cash.
Through this collaboration, Kaiser Permanente will provide care to its members and to non-members. They view the new arrangement as the evolution of Kaiser Permanente’s care delivery into a setting that will provide patients with support and convenience, according to Kaiser’s Dr. Paul Minardi, who is medical director for the new Target clinics they are opening in the four stores.
Insurance industry experts believe the Target clinics, which are located in Kaiser strongholds, will immediately benefit from the insurer’s well-known brand. Blue Shield of California has already indicated they plan to contract with the new Kaiser-run Target clinics. Kaiser will also accept Medicare and Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health plan, in the health clinics they are opening in Target stores. Kaiser and Target are also pursuing contracts with other health plans.
By Dyanne Weiss