Health Systems Provide Backing for Walk-in Clinics

Recently, I noted in the FEHBlog that the CVS pharmacy chain had purchased MinuteClinic, a much smaller chain of walk-in clinics staffed by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. Laura Landro reports in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that CVS plans to incorporate MinuteClinics in 1000 of its pharmacies over the next three years.

Even more interestingly, Ms. Landro reports that regional healthcare systems such as Atlanticare in New Jersey are establishing their own walk-in clinics on a divide and conquer theory. The walk-in clinics will treat the mildly ill at low prices but feed the more seriously ill to the system’s doctor network.

In a similar arrangement, the TakeCare chain of walk-in clinics has arranged for support and cross-referrals from Advocate Health Partners in Chicagoland. She cites to several other examples.

According to Ms. Landro, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota “which analyzed 22,956 visits by its members to MinuteClinics from June 2004 to June 2005, found the clinics cost about half an office visit — or $43 versus $87 — and less than half for other related costs such as lab services.”