A new survey by Price Waterhouse Health Research Institute reavealed that consumers are more than willing to abandon traditional care venues for more affordable and convenient alternatives. Your neighborhood drugstore is a visable indicator of a shift in healthcare delivery. National chains like CVS and Walgreens now offer a wide range of medical services, from lab testing to school physicals.

Recently, I visited a CVS Minute Clinic to tend to an earache prior to leaving town to visit one of our daughters in Seattle. I’ve been curious about the infiltration of mammoth companies like CVS and Walgreens into the healthcare business. So instead of making an appointment with our family physician I decided to check out a nearby Minute Clinic.

I found the experience to be very informative. As a patient I couldn’t help myself from being a “secret shopper” to learn what I could to help my cash practice tribe.

3 Insights from My Minute Clinic Visit


The no appointment necessary clinic was five minutes from our house. The thought of scheduling an appointment with my doctor’s office deterred me several times as a battled my symptoms. When I decided to take action, convenience was my top priority. The Minute Clinic offered me direct access to a qualified health practitioner for a routine office visit.

Therapists that operate a cash practice should keep convenience in mind when seeking an advantage over their competition. People are busy. Having a reputation for easy accessibility and flexible scheduling is a tremendous advantage.


The Minute Clinic was very transparent with the cost of the various treatments. The price for my routine visit was posted online and the nurse practitioner explained my treatment costs. The value of my time and convenience far out weighed the cost of the intervention. I was ready to pull out my credit card even before she examined me.

An interesting side note, when I went to the CVS pharmacy next to the clinic the prescription was $179. Yikes! The pharmacist called back to the nurse practitioner for a generic brand prescription–$15 with our insurance plan. Whew!

As a consumer this made absolutely no sense at all and created feelings of distrust. Was I being taken advantage of? Was this a hidden cost that I was being blindsided by? Are these the same feelings my clients have if my charges aren’t made clear to them?

The take away for therapists thinking about a cash practice is that healthcare consumers are becoming more comfortable talking about the cost of care. Some clients expect it and others demand to know their out of pocket costs.

Rising deductibles and co-pays influence some of your clients to factor in cost when determining a provider of choice. Consider making your office visit charges available on your website. Display your various charges in your on boarding materials for new patients.


The Minute Clinic receptionist was a kiosk. I entered my demographic information, medical complaint and was immediately given the next appointment.The nurse practitioner was pleasant and professional. My insurance card was scanned and demographic information was entered into my record.

 She occasionally looked up while she entered my medical history into her laptop. Since I was a new patient, the data entry took at least 20 minutes.My clinical exam and patient interaction lasted no more than 8 minutes. Afterwards she told me those corporate targets 20 minutes total for my visit type.

The lesson for therapists in small offices is to consider the documentation trade offs with accepting insurance. As she was scrolling through field after field entering irrelevant data in their EMR system I couldn’t help but think of the tradeoffs of participating with the insurance system.

In essence she was a highly paid data entry person.

I could sense the professional dilemma of wanting to practice medicine and avoid wasted time of entering data that was extraneous to my care.

Our high deductible means that in reality I was cash pay patient. A cash-based practice is able to eliminate 90% insurance documentation requirements. Your documentation system can be streamlined to create more clinical interaction. Less face time with your computer means more face time with your clients. Reduced insurance paperwork allows a more personal and enjoyable encounter for both the clients and the practitioner.


The trend of large corporations like CVS and Walgreens entering into the healthcare is a reality of the new healthcare economy. These new competitors are here to stay. They are going to shape consumers expectations and the way healthcare is delivered for decades to come.

Instead of bemoaning their unfair advantages, learn from them and imitate them. Use practice agility to outmaneuver the big boys by adding a personal touch to your niche consumers. Use convenience, transparent costs and less computer time to serve your ideals clients and you’ll build consumer loyalty and your business.


Post a comment on your last interaction with a large healthcare provider and what you can offer to gain a competitive advantage.