GRAFTON, Mass. - The Grafton CVS will open a walk-in medical clinic inside its store before the end of this year, ushering in what could be a growth trend in the central Massachusetts area and a new route for minor, everyday ailments.
Although the exact date has not been set, a spokesperson for MinuteClinic said it will be in time for the cold and flu season, traditionally the busiest time of year for routine medical care.
Its launch could be strongly welcomed. There are only a handful of primary care physicians in town, some who no longer accept new patients, leaving many residents to travel to neighboring communities for routine treatment of poison ivy, strep throat, and pink eye. When opened, the new clinic will offer another option without an appointment.
“It’s all about convenience,” said retail medicine consultant and analyst Thomas Charland, head of Minnesota-based Merchant Medicine, LLC. He said that when a family member gets sick with a routine ailment, a place like MinuteClinic makes sense given the scheduling inflexibility of many doctors who practice internal medicine.
“For a doctor to say, ‘we can see you tomorrow afternoon’, just doesn’t cut it,” he said.
Walk-in clinics are growing rapidly in Massachusetts. There are 31 Minuteclinics in the state, half opening in the past three years. One of the most recent is in Northborough, the sole one in the area.
Nationwide, CVS operates 561 clinics, the largest in the country. Its nearest competitor, Walgreens, operates 360 “Take Care” clinics, but none in Massachusetts. Rebecca Carriero, a spokesperson for Walgreens, said although she could not comment specifically about the local area, Walgreens is planning on expanding the number of clinics in the years to come.
Driven by their flexibility, pricing, and convenience, walk-in clinics are growing in popularity despite their sparse setting amongst aisles of shampoo and Halloween candy. Patients with health insurance from one of the top three carriers in the state don’t need a referral, while those without health insurance can expect a fixed price menu. For example, CVS MinuteClinic charges $32 for a seasonal flu shot, and $79 to $89 for a minor injury or treatment for a common ailment like bronchitis or an earache.
Existing communities have been accepting overall. Jamie Terry, Board of Health Agent for the Town of Northborough, said since CVS opened a clinic in town, she has not heard any complaints. Lois Luniewicz, Health Agent for the Grafton Board of Health said, in her personal opinion, if staffed properly, it can be a positive to the town. In Massachusetts, the state board of health regulates the clinics.
Aside from Grafton, a CVS in Worcester is also planning on opening a clinic later this year. When launched, both will be open seven days a week, will be first come, first serve, and be staffed by a nurse practitioner.