Medical Association Seeks Retail Clinic Investigations
At its annual meeting this week, the American Medical Association adopted a resolution to ask state and federal agencies to launch investigations into whether retail health clinics place the health of patients at risk, the Chicago Tribune reports (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 6/26).
Retail clinics -- low-cost, walk-in facilities often located in supermarkets, pharmacies and large retail stores -- in large part are staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants under the supervision of physicians who in most cases are not on site.
Currently, AMA policy on retail clinics in large part addresses standards of care, such as the use of electronic health records and adherence to guidelines for proper sanitation and hygiene.
At the meeting on Sunday, some physician groups said that the lack of physicians at retail clinics places the health of patients at risk, and others said that nurse practitioners lack the ability to properly treat patients younger than age three (California Healthline, 6/25).
Under the resolution, AMA also will seek an investigation into whether retail clinics encourage patients to fill their prescription on site, a practice that might involve a conflict of interest. In addition, AMA will seek a ban on a practice in which health insurers offer to waive or reduce copayments for members who seek care at retail clinics.
Walgreen spokesperson Michael Polzin said that retail clinics operated by the company do not encourage patients to fill their prescription on site. He added, "If the AMA pushed this agenda, its members may find out that legislators and constituents have been demanding accessible, affordable and high-quality health care for years, and that's what retail clinics are delivering" (Tanner, AP/Houston Chronicle, 6/25).
However, AMA "backed down" from a proposal by some doctors to seek a ban on retail clinics or minimum age limits for patients treated at the facilities, the Chicago Tribune reports (Chicago Tribune, 5/26).
Peter Carmel, an AMA board member, said, "If we believe in consumer-driven medicine, if we believe that it is the responsibility of medicine to respond to the needs of our patients and if there is a strong consumer demand, then we in fact are going to have to compete in this arena" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 6/25).
AMA on Monday also adopted a resolution to lobby for the passage of legislation that would allow children with severe food allergies to take medication to school, the AP/Albany Times Union reports.
Eighteen states and several school districts have policies that ban the practice, according to Duane Cady, an AMA board member.
The resolution applies to prescription epinephrine and other injectable medications that treat anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can cause swelling, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness and death.
Under the resolution, AMA will encourage schools to develop preparedness plans for their responses to children who experience severe allergic reactions and ensure that all affected children have individual emergency care plans.
AMA board member Rebecca Patchin said, "Life-threatening allergic reactions to foods can easily happen at school or away from home, and an epinephrine injection at the first sign of a reaction is critical" (Tanner, AP/Albany Times Union, 6/25).
In related news, AMA on Thursday introduced a new medical journal that will examine the science of disaster preparedness and response. The first edition of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness features studies related to Hurricane Katrina, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. An online version of the journal is available at http://www.dmphp.org (AP/Macon Telegraph, 6/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.