Next time you make a doctor’s appointment, it may be with your local drugstore. As if Obamacare hasn’t caused enough of a shakeup in health care, convenient care clinics across the U.S. now promise to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients with chronic illnesses. In fact, drugstore companies including Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) and CVS Caremark Corporation (NYSE:CVS) are at the forefront of this trend.
This could further disrupt an already rattled health care industry — particularly because the services provided by drugstore clinics are often more convenient and affordable than a doctor’s visit.
A dose of convenience
Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG)s is aggressively expanding the scope of services offered at its in-store Take Care Clinics. Last week, the country’s largest drugstore chain said it would begin treating patients with chronic conditions including asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
This is a smart move for Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) at a time when the U.S. is facing a shortage of doctors. Not to mention, Obamacare will have a big impact on the health care industry next year as millions of previously uninsured people will gain coverage.
Meanwhile, rival pharmacy chain CVS Caremark Corporation (NYSE:CVS) is also putting a greater emphasis on treating patients at its walk-in clinics. CVS Caremark Corporation (NYSE:CVS), which currently operates around 640 MinuteClinics, expects to have as many as 800 MinuteClinics by year’s end. While Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG)’s footprint is a bit smaller with just 372 clinics now in operation, the company plans to open more locations in the year ahead. Of course, there’s a catch.
The doctor won’t see you
One thing to keep in mind are that these convenient care clinics, as they’re called, are not staffed by doctors but instead manned by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. While this may deter some customers, there’s something to be said about the flexibility of care clinics — most of which, are open extended hours and weekends.