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Take Care Health is taking off

CONSHOHOCKEN, PA – Some predictions of rapid growth in healthcare haven’t panned out. But rosy guesses on the growth of convenience care clinics seem to be fully on track.
Last month, Take Care Health System reported its own aggressive expansion plans, revealing plans to open 400 clinics by the end of 2008, typically in popular retail locations such as drug stores.

Executives of the Conshohocken, Pa.-based system, a subsidiary of the Walgreen Co. since its May acquisition, announced an expansion of the clinics into nine markets: Cinncinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Nashville, Tenn., Orlando and Tampa, Fla., and Tucson, Ariz.

Including expansion in existing markets, Take Care plans to open 100 clinics by the end of this year, said Lauren Tierney, director of communications.

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Those plans mirror announcements by other major players to bring access to low-cost basic care to consumers in a variety of retail locations.

For example, the president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced plans to open as many as 400 health clinics over the next two to three years. Speaking in April, Lee Scott predicted the nation’s largest retailer could open as many as 2,000 such clinics over the next five to seven years.

Las Vegas-based Medical Marts continues to roll out its clinics in four separate markets and has announced plans to develop as many as 400 in popular retail locations by the end of 2009.

Growth in convenience care clinics is exceeding projections, said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association.

“We’ve just hit 600 clinics by our members, and assume it will be 700 or more by December,” she said. “In the next two years, we expect the number will double.”

Growth is mirrroring both consumer preferences and growing acceptance by the healthcare industry.

“What resonates with consumers is the convenience,” said Hansen-Turton. “It’s a place where consumers can turn when their doctor’s office is closed.”

Take Care data suggests that patients who come to the clinics would have either gone to hospitals’ emergency departments or urgent care clinics or would have skipped treatment, Tierney said.

The company’s clinics have treated 200,000 patients with basic care in the last two years. Treatment prices range from $59 to $74.

More payers, including Medicare and Medicaid, are covering treatment in its clinics, Tierney said. In addition, she said, opposition from physicians appears to be softening.

“A lot of doctors are embracing the concept – they’re sending patients to us and knowing that we’ll get the information (on their patients) to them,” she said. “We’re putting patients into the healthcare system and helping them to navigate it.”