Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Retail Clinics, Urgent Care Centers See Significant Growth

Massachusetts Retail Clinics, Urgent Care Centers See Significant Growth


In 2015, 38 percent of Massachusetts emergency department visits were for nonemergency conditions and 73 percent of recent emergency department visits were for care after normal operating hours at the doctor’s office or clinic.

Research by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) suggests that retail clinics may provide after-hours care options for patients when their physician’s office is closed and their treatment is not life-threatening. Interestingly, the RWJF reports that retail clinics and urgent care center locations tend to be in higher-income, urban, and suburban settings. A national survey of emergency physicians conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians last year found that 43 percent of physicians felt that urgent care centers did not reduce ED visits for patients with less severe illnesses, and 49 percent of physicians felt that retail clinics did not reduce ED visits for patients with less severe illnesses. According to recent analyses by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC), emergency department usage in 2014 was 30 percent lower when there was a retail clinic or urgent care center located within five miles of a patient’s residence.

Retail or Limited Store-Based Clinics

According to a recent report by the HPC, there are currently 58 retail clinics in Massachusetts — all operated by CVS MinuteClinic. The number of retail clinics has expanded significantly from 11 in 2008 to 58 in 2015 (an increase of 427 percent). In Massachusetts, retail clinics are also called limited-service store-based clinics with direct patient care provided by nurse practitioners. These standalone clinics are often located inside of pharmacies or other retail stores and have a limited scope of services which include treatment of minor illness such as sore throat, treatment of minor wounds and abrasions, wellness services like sports physicals, and simple blood tests for diabetes and cholesterol levels.

Urgent Care Centers

Another addition to the health care community in Massachusetts is the increasing prevalence of urgent care centers. The number of urgent care centers in Massachusetts has expanded from 10 in 2008 to 84 in 2015 (an increase of 740 percent). These urgent care centers are staffed with physicians and may also include other licensed health care professionals. Urgent care centers may provide similar services to those offered in retail clinics with additional services like x-rays, intravenous therapy, and the ability to treat non–life threatening complaints (conditions as ones that could have been treated by a regular doctor if one had been available). Currently, there are 84 urgent care centers owned by hospitals and health care systems, physician groups, and corporate chains in Massachusetts, according to the HPC and annual National Provider Identifier registry data.

In response to the expansion of the retail clinic and urgent care marketplace, the MMS Physician Practice Resource Center continues to monitor the expansion of retail clinics within the state and has developed a resource guide for physicians and their practices.

Share on Facebook

New: Advertise With MMS

Increase your brand awareness and visibility to physicians and the general public through advertising space on the MMS website and several MMS email newsletters.

Read More »

Subscribe to e-Newsletters

Stay on the cutting edge of medicine by subscribing to free MMS e-newsletters. Choose from up to ten subject areas including physician and patient advocacy, public health, CME, daily health care news, and more. 

Sign Up »

NEJM Resident 360  Ad

Copyright © 2018. Massachusetts Medical Society, 860 Winter Street, Waltham Woods Corporate Center, Waltham, MA 02451-1411

(781) 893-4610 | (781) 893-3800 | Member Information Hotline: (800) 322-2303 x7311