Medical clinics try retail on for size

Walk-in medical clinics are filling out deflating brick-and-mortar shopping malls in place of vanishing businesses like Sears, Blockbuster, Borders and RadioShack, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Investors have pumped $3 billion into the burgeoning urgent-care industry in the last four years, according data in the report from research firm Pitchbook.

This has caused the number of walk-in clinics in the U.S. to increase 20 percent between 2009 and 2013, to a total of 9,400 clinics, according to data from Urgent Care Association of America in the report. Roughly one third of these clinics set up shop in abandoned shopping mall real estate.

That's why Scott Mason, executive managing director of the healthcare group at New York-based Cushman & Wakefield, calls it the "Blockbuster strategy." Clinics "look for retail outlets with high visibility, high traffic patterns and signage capabilities," he tells Bloomberg.

These clinics accept patients without appointments 365 days a year for physicals and vaccinations, in addition to minor illnesses and injuries. They typically see four patients each hour for 12 hours each day, according to the Urgent Care Association. The clinics ease emergency room demand and provide patients with a more affordable way to receive care quickly: A visit to an urgent care clinic for a sore throat costs $94, compared to $590 in the ER, according to data in the report.

While the market isn't saturated yet, it may shake out a bit after such rapid growth, experts tell Bloomberg.


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