Number Of Retail Medical Clinics Increases
Retail clinics -- low-cost, walk-in facilities often located insupermarkets, pharmacies and large retail stores that in large part arestaffed by nurse practitioners -- are "fast becoming a seriousindustry" in the U.S., the AP/Tennessean reports. According to the Convenient Care Association,which represents retail clinics, 7% of U.S. residents visited suchfacilities at least once, with the rate expected to increase as thenumber of facilities expands.
CCA estimates that the number ofretail clinics will increase from 400 to more than 700 by the end ofthe year and to about 2,000 by the end of 2008. In addition, about 40%to 50% of clinics accept health insurance from Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and other large companies, according to CCA.
However, "concerns about quality of care are rising among physicians,and some industry experts say the clinics' services need to be morebroad if they are going to have a big impact on reducing overall healthcare costs," the AP/Tennessean reports (D'Innocenzio, AP/Tennessean, 8/12). The American Medical Associationin June adopted a resolution to ask state and federal agencies tolaunch investigations into whether retail clinics place the health ofpatients at risk and whether the facilities encourage patients to filltheir prescription on site. In addition, AMA will seek a ban on apractice in which health insurers offer to waive or reduce copaymentsfor members who seek care at retail clinics (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/26).
Anumber of states have passed legislation to clarify the role of nursepractitioners at retail clinics. In response to concerns about thequality of care provided at retail clinics, Tine Hansen-Turten,executive director of CCA, said that such facilities are monitored bystate nursing or medical boards or both. Michael Howe, president andCEO of MinuteClinic, added, "I wouldn't call it express care. I would call it efficient care."
AMAhas denied that "criticism of these clinics is being driven by economicinterests," but "there's no doubt that primary physicians could losesome business as their insured patients go elsewhere for minorailments," according to the AP/Tennessean (AP/Tennessean, 8/12).
Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.