Retail Health Clinics Still Subject of Disagreement
It’s fair to say the American Medical Association (AMA) has never totally approved of retail health clinics. Policy adopted in 2007 was opposed because co-pays could be waived or reduced by insurers; policy adopted in July 2011 suggests taking action "by communicating directly with insurance companies on what it sees as the consequences of steering patients to nonphysician-staffed clinics," according to amednews.
Although few studies have been done to date, cthealthpolicy.org’s Project Fellow, Nelson Mendoza, believes patients "have received similar quality of care and preventive services, and incurred similar prescription costs as patients at physician offices and urgent care centers. The emergency room had lower quality and higher prescription costs."
Concerns, he said, revolve around the possibility that clinics in retail locations will have a conflict of interest over prescriptions. Locations are more often in affluent areas rather than those where people are uninsured and/or can’t easily access healthcare providers. Disruption of continuity with a regular provider may present potential problems along with clinics taking "short lucrative appointments" from healthcare centers.
An American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) statement on its website in 2010 also opposed expansion, "in particular, the management of chronic medical conditions in this setting."
That said, research by Merchant Medicine, reported on dailymarkets.com, predicted an increasing number of clinics ranging from double to triple the current total by 2015. At a minimum, its "2011-2015 Walk-In Clinic Market Forecast," claimed the number "would increase by 33 percent during the next five years." Amongst the possible reasons are growth in what they called accountable care organizations (ACOs) and their impact on both retail and urgent care. There is also a shortage of primary care physicians enabling clinics to fill gaps. On the basis of cost, convenience, quality and flexibility, market forces will continue to drive growth, the report says.
According to ama-assn.org, the consultants’ CEO, Tom Charland, also believes ACOs could lead to significant developments in telemedicine so patients can receive care from their homes if they are in an area short on accessible primary care facilities — more, then, for both the AMA and the retailers to worry about.
- AMA toughens stance on retail health clinics – American Medical Association
- Retail health clinics – American Academy of Family Physicians
- Retail clinics – CT Health Policy Project
- After spate of closures, retail clinics may be on upswing – American Medical Association
- Retail clinics in the US could triple in 5 years – Daily Markets
Discussion Questions: Will AMA intervention have any effect on the growth of retail health clinics? Is there a way forward that will help consumers, retailers and healthcare providers offer the best possible service?