TECHNOLOGY: Quick clinics as part of the Walmartization of health care

For some time various people in health care have been talking about the Walmartization of health care. What they are talking about (and you know who you are Mr. Singerman!) is the development of a low cost generic health care service that could deliver primary and walk-up care very cheaply. Well as iHealthbeat reported the other day, it looks like these quick clinics are indeed turning up in large mall stores, but the first ones are appearing in a Target and Club Foods…..although if they’re a success you know the Beast of Bentonville won’t be far behind. What do these clinics do?

Diagnose and treat several common ailments, provide vaccinations and offer cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. Staffed by nurse practitioners, these "MinuteClinics" use clinical guidelines software to help diagnose and treat patients. The $15 million software incorporates established clinical guidelines and notes patients who come to the clinic frequently with the same complaints so they can be referred to a doctor, said Catherine Wisner, director of national operations for MinuteClinic.

There have also been reports of more and more actual surgery happening overseas, particularly in India and Thailand,and the Brits have been sending patients overseas to buy cheap surgery in France and Spain (at a cheaper marginal cost than building more facilities at home).  So are we at the start of a globalization of surgery, in which the easy stuff will be delivered by low-paid staff backed up by smart computers, and the expensive staff will be contracted out to cheap but well-trained foreigners?  Probably not a reality any time soon, but a trend worth watching.

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Sam Oliver
Sam Oliver

Hi! This is a followup to my comments of July, 2005, which appear to have been dead on. Since my last comments, Minute Clinics has been acquired by CVS, because they couldn’t operate independently at a profit. The clinics could prospectively drive more customers into the CVS stores, hence negative cash flow to Minute Clinics can still mean profits to CVS. Also in the interim, RediClinics has come to pass. Steve Case, the AOL founder, is behind this group. Their approach is superior to Minute Clinics, hence have realized greater success, with success being a relative term. By their own… Read more »

Sam Oliver
Sam Oliver

Barbara, I have been so intrigued by the concept as to potentially going head to head with them. But before I do anything, I want to see Minute Clinics generate a profit. I have sat through three years of listening to Ms. Hall Whitman talk about this, that and the other expansion program, that has resulted in a grand total of 22 clinics in three years, but now I’m listening to Mr. Howe talk about seeing 30-35 PPD at each clinic, when their own reports show actual patronage at 15 PPD. By their own publication, 17-19 PPD is break even,… Read more »


As a Practice Admininstrator, I have become more interested in the idea of “Minute Clinics” concepts, but offering this within an office setting. My approach would be to staff NP’s that could provide minor surgical care such “benign mole removals”, to those patients that have coverage but do not want to wait for precerts/authorizations or approvals (cosmetic procedure) from their insurance payers. These patients would be willing to “waive” billing their carriers and paying a flat fee as a private pay patient by signing such waivers. These would be “walk-in” visits only. I would be interested in hearing some comments/recomendations/opinions… Read more »