Mayo Clinic Enters Retail Care Business

Published February 1, 2008

In a prominent example of a major medical name getting into the fast-growing express-care retail clinic business, the Mayo Clinic has announced it will open a Mayo Express Care clinic in early 2008 at a shopping center in Rochester, Minnesota.

In addition, the Mayo Health System has announced plans to open Luther Midelfort Express Care clinics in Wisconsin during the first quarter of 2008. The clinics will be located in high-traffic, high-visibility areas with convenient parking that are close to pharmacies.

Luther Midelfort is better known in Wisconsin for offering high-end medical services such as trauma and cancer treatment, orthopedic care, and heart surgeries.

‘Respected Institution’

The express care clinics in both states will be staffed by nurse practitioners and supported by family medicine physicians. Like other retail clinics, they will treat common ailments such as colds, flus, ear infections, skin conditions, and allergies.

Market experts applauded the move as visionary.

“It is great to see such a respected institution enter this market,” said John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. “It will spur competition and improve quality.”

Growing Industry

Graham recommended all state legislators make sure their regulations allow these clinics to thrive.

Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association–an industry trade group based in Philadelphia–said the announcements are “wonderful news,” with the Mayo Clinic just the latest in a growing list of health care systems “seeing the value in the convenient care clinic model, which is based [on] affordable, accessible, efficient, basic health care with price transparency and effective communication.”

Several large nonprofit health systems–including AtlantiCare in New Jersey, Aurora Health System and Bellin Fast Care in Wisconsin, Geisinger Medical System in Pennsylvania, Memorial Health System in Indiana, and Sutter Health in California–have “created subsidiary convenient care clinics (CCCs) that benefit from the health system’s reputation, infrastructure, and physician referral network,” Hansen-Turton explained.

“Health systems view CCCs as an opportunity to decrease inappropriate use of hospital [emergency rooms] and increase access to basic health care services and preventative care. CCCs are an entryway into the health care system for consumers who have trouble accessing traditional health care providers,” Hansen-Turton continued.

The retail clinic industry is growing fast, Hansen-Turton added, with more than 800 clinics now operating nationwide.

“This growth represents a 25 percent higher growth than anticipated in January 2007,” Hansen-Turton explained. “We expect that the number of clinics will double in [2008], and you will see more integrated health care systems and physician practices opening clinics to expand access to care.”

The Mayo Clinic is by no means alone in moving into the retail market in Minnesota. According to a November 12 Minneapolis Star-Tribune article, the “Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services has opened Fairview Express Care clinics in Coborn’s Superstores in Albertville and Elk River and is planning two more in Princeton and Hastings. In Rochester, Olmsted Medical Center opened OMC FastCare at a ShopKo last summer and plans a second late this year.”

Consumer-Driven Movement

The Luther Midelfort Express Care clinics will accept insurance from patients who have it. Those who don’t, or who are underinsured, will be charged a flat fee of approximately $50 per visit.

According to a November 16 news release from the Mayo Health System, “[The] appointments will be walk-in only, and patients will register upon arriving. Most appointments will take an average of 15 minutes. Evening and weekend hours are planned.”

“Primary care is going retail,” noted Devon Herrick, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. “Patients are acting more like consumers and demanding convenient access to a health care provider, without having to make an appointment a week in advance and drive across town, only to wait in a doctor’s office.

“Having a respected health care system run these facilities gives patients–and the concept of retail medicine–more legitimacy,” Herrick added. “It also helps the hospital to extend brand awareness in the minds of patients.”

Dr. Sanjit Bagchi ([email protected]) writes from India.