Partner or compete
Most health system executives have a hard time determining whether they should compete or collaborate with retail clinics, says Zach Hafner, partner at The Advisory Board Company. Initially, many executives—especially those with trusted brands—decide that the clear choice is to compete. But Hafner often counsels that this perspective is “inside out.”
What to consider instead, says Hafner, is an “outside in” strategy, focusing on what consumers want—and, namely, that’s better, or even immediate, convenient access to the healthcare system, which a retail clinic can help provide. Still, this varies depending on the market, he says. In some markets the health system is better positioned than the retail clinic provider, and partnering with the retail clinic doesn’t make the most sense, he says.
Health system partnerships with CVS-Minute Clinics and The Little Clinic are branded affiliations with medical oversight, while partnerships with Walmart are examples of a health system having full control or operational control over the retail clinic. For example, providers triage the referrals in network and directly accrue clinic revenue, says Zuehlke.
Collaborating with retail clinics is also a good move for payers who are interested in setting up a narrow network product while providing convenient options for members. This can be a mutually beneficial arrangement, since it also provides members with access to care in exchange for lower premiums. In addition, Hafner says, for self-insured employers, access to care for employees at retail clinics is a “real satisfier” because it doesn’t require negotiating rates with a wide variety of providers.