By their very existence, retail clinics could threaten parts of the healthcare system, according to a new report from healthcare research firm Kalorama Information. 

By Kalorama’s count, there are 2,200 small one-person healthcare facilities located within a retail store, across the United States and hospitals, doctors’ practices, government, insurers, and healthcare IT companies could all be affected by them.

“The retail clinic concept is brought up in nearly every discussion of healthcare, in cost-cutting for governments or methods for better preventive care,” Kalorama said in its report, Retail Clinics 2017: The Game-Changer in Healthcare. It’s Kalorama’s eighth report on retail clinics in the past 10 years.

[Also: Retail clinics continue to shape local healthcare markets]

Clinics tend to upend the normal healthcare delivery environment and the direction of flow of services, according to the research.

“They deliver healthcare to customers where they are, where the rest of the healthcare system awaits patients,” Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information, said in a statement. “Ten years ago, the retail clinic concept was novel,” he added. “Now, it’s rare to hear a discussion of healthcare trends that doesn’t include these clinics. Everyone is thinking about how they can align to the trend.”

[Also: CVS Health expands its care reach]

Here are five ways Kalorama figures disruption will occur:

1. They are a lower-cost solution than the emergency room and can be used both to compete for insurance company business with high-cost emergency rooms and also be used by healthcare organizations to reduce the traffic at the ER.

2. As 85 percent of retail clinic patients have a physician they have seen regularly, they are a potential boon or threat to the doctor’s office. On one hand, they offer better hours on average and do provide treatment for routine services like colds and flu. On the other hand, they do refer patients — even suggesting the patient obtain a primary care doctor — and don’t provide all services. 

3. They are already a source of focus in the in vitro diagnostics industry, as major IVDs develop testing units for both retail and urgent care clinics.

4. They are building consumer awareness and reputation year over year, and they’ve been around more than 15 years, with favorable waiting times and hours, and they continue to receive high ratings.

5. They are in the forefront of electronic medical records and technology in healthcare, introducing EMR, billing innovation and virtual waiting room technology that physician offices are slowly adopting.

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