Massachusetts Physicians Call For Stricter Rules On Retail Health Clinics

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Retail Health Clinics

Massachusetts physicians at a state Department of Public Health hearing on Wednesday said the state should impose stricter regulations on retail health clinics to protect patient safety, the Boston Globe reports. The department developed rules for retail clinics after CVS asked for permission to open 30 MinuteClinicsin the state. Under the proposed rules, clinics would be required tolimit the number of repeat visits, refer patients to primary carephysicians for complex illnesses, and provide patients and theirdoctors with a copy of records from the visit.

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At Wednesday's hearing, Bruce Auerbach, president-elect of the Massachusetts Medical Society,said the regulations were "an open surrender of basic standards,"noting that the rules do not require clinics to have their own sinks,which could pose a public health threat at a time when hospitals areworking to reduce the transmission of germs.

Paul Dreyer,director of the public health department's Bureau of Quality Assuranceand Control, said the basic services retail clinics would provide donot require the same level of sanitation as hospitals or doctors'offices. However, he added that the department will consider whether torequire clinics to answer phone calls after hours and whether toestablish a minimum age for patients, as recommended by statepediatricians.

Physicians at the hearing also expressedconcern that the clinics would create a conflict of interest when staffprescribe drugs sold by their own employer, the Globe reports.

MinuteClinicCEO Michael Howe said the regulations will allow clinics to provideaffordable, convenient services as demand for primary care growsbecause of the state's new health insurance law. Howe also said theclinics, if approved, will charge $59 per visit, and negotiations areongoing with state insurance providers to cover services received atthe clinics (Mello, Boston Globe, 9/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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