The role of retail clinics

September 11, 2007

Massachusetts is currently debating whether to allow the opening of mini-clinics based in retail stores. Significant opposition has come from existing providers, who have raised questions about quality and the impact on continuity of care. Over the weekend I had a chance to catch up with a pediatrician friend. He said he’s in favor of mini-clinics and gave me examples of patients of his who’ve gone to the ER and had major, costly, unneeded treatment, when they should have been seen by him in his office or in some cases in a store-based clinic.

In yesterday’s Boston Globe, MinuteClinic’s CEO Michael Howe makes a solid defense of mini-clinics, which he calls “limited-service clinics.” According to him, such clinics help the health care system focus on four “imperatives.”

  1. Access
    • Open 7 days per week
    • Conveniently located
    • Available without an appointment or referral
    • Very little waiting compared with an ER
    • Help free up ERs and doctors to focus on more serious cases
  2. Quality
    • Joint Commission accredited
    • Evidence-based medicine. For example, MinuteClinic patients receive best practice care for sore throats 99 percent of the time versus 55 percent elsewhere
  3. Affordability
    • $59 per visit
    • Often covered by insurance
  4. Continuity of care
    • Referrals to other providers
    • Use of Continuity of Care record to provide information on visit

5 thoughts on “The role of retail clinics”

  1. While retail clinics may serve to fill a niche, they are as much a symptom of the overall dysfunction of our healthcare system as they are a solution. Ideally, patients would have access to a “health care home” (eg., a primary care physician) that would effectively and efficiently coordinate the patient’s care and utilization of healthcare resources.

    Retail clinics represent another bandaid (applied by greedy opportunists) on the many oozing sores of healthcare “system” rather than a solution.

  2. I have used the minute clinics and they are great! the service is fabulous and we have used them across the country on trips as well. I hope CVS keeps them. The cost is reasonable and they take your insurance and fill your prescriptions right there. They saved me when I was really ill and my doctor could not see me for another week. They do a great service.

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