Retail clinics with boutique (or concierge medicine) practices are on the rise, a study finds, but legal challenges continue.

Visits To Retail Clinics Grew Fourfold From 2007 To 2009, Although Their Share Of Overall Outpatient Visits Remains Low, is the name of the study by Ateev Mehrotra, a policy analyst at RAND Corp. and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Judith R. Lave, a professor of health economics at the University of Pittsburgh.

According to the article:

  • Visits to retail clinics increased from 1.48 million visits in 2007 to 5.97 million in 2009, representing roughly $460 million of healthcare spending in that year.
  • This represented a small share of overall outpatient care visits, which included 117 million trips to the emergency room and 577 million visits to physician offices.
  • Most of the visits for those 65 and older involved vaccinations for influenza, as opposed to care for chronic conditions.
  • Of total visits to retail clinics in 2007 -2009, 21.8% were for preventative care (including vaccinations) and 78.2% were for acute care (such as upper respiratory infections).
  • Only 1% of retail clinic visits during this period involved treatment for chronic disease.

    The study did not draw any conclusions about the likely impact of the Affordable Care Act.  This study adds to mounting data suggesting that primary care is changing and that trends are intensifying to move medicine out in communities, whether via telemedicine, concierge practices, or otherwise.  Legal challenges relating to licensing, scope of practice, malpractice liability and standard of care will continue.