Health IT

CVS MinuteClinic hits 25M visits as a nice adjunct to primary care

CVS Health announced that its MinuteClinic locations have seen 25 million patients since the company opened its first retail clinics in 2000. From an experiment in four states, MinuteClinic has grown over the last 15 years into a juggernaut in walk-in care, with nearly 1,000 locations in 31 states plus the District of Columbia. CVS expects to hit 1,500 clinics by 2017.

Today, CVS Health announced that its MinuteClinic locations have seen 25 million patients since the company opened its first retail clinics in 2000.

From an experiment in four states, MinuteClinic has grown over the last 15 years into a juggernaut in walk-in care, with nearly 1,000 locations in 31 states plus the District of Columbia. CVS expects to open 100 new clinics this year and about 500 more by 2017.

“We’ve seen MinuteClinic evolve from a limited service treating just seven acute illnesses to become a high-quality healthcare provider that now offers 65 services and vaccinations,” MinuteClinic President and CVS Health Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Sussman said in a press release“As we look to the future, we will continue to expand our service offerings.”

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MinuteClinic and other retail and convenience clinics — yes, there’s a trade group called the Convenient Care Association — fill a niche for people who either don’t have or can’t wait for a primary care physician but who don’t have illnesses or injuries serious enough to require urgent care or an emergency room.

I found this out personally last summer and fall when I visited MinuteClinic locations in rural Indiana and in Silicon Valley. The customer service couldn’t have been better. In both cases, I was out in about an hour (I did have to wait a bit for patients in front of me and for the pharmacy to fill prescriptions) and only was responsible for a copayment.

MinuteClinic took my history not on a paper form attached to the hated clipboard, but electronically through a touch-screen kiosk. My information was already in the system the second time, 2,000 miles away from the first location. And, astonishingly, two days after the California visit, the nurse practitioner personally called me to make sure the medications she prescribed were working. I would never get that from a primary care doctor, unless perhaps if I had subscribed to concierge care.

Still, there were limitations. I never did find out whether the infection on my leg was cellulitis or the much nastier MRSA. That’s because MinuteClinic doesn’t have an onsite lab or even an arrangement to send cultures to an outside lab. I was told that if my conditioned worsened, I should go to urgent care or an ER. (Fortunately, I didn’t need that, though, obviously, skin irritation returned two months later.)

But I’m so glad there were walk-in clinics available close to where I was while I was on the road, particularly when I really was on the road, traveling through Indiana on a bicycle. It was a nice adjunct to primary care, though far from a full-service medical facility.