Physicians Skeptical of Expanding Retail Clinics
Nationwide growth in retail medical clinics is receiving "close scrutiny from the medical profession," the Chicago Tribune reports.
Groups such as the American Medical Association have said that such clinics should establish a treatment code that explains that patients will receive treatment only for minor maladies. Further, physician groups say that the nurse practitioners who usually staff retail medical clinics should have access to a physician referral system so that patients with severe medical issues can be treated in a doctor's office.
However, "even doctors who dislike the retail clinics are hard-pressed to argue about the convenience they offer people with minor maladies," and "employers and insurers who pick up the tab expect to see huge savings if these new health models prevent even a small number of people from going to emergency rooms, which can charge hundreds of dollars to treat minor ailments," the Tribune reports. Patients without health insurance who receive care in retail clinics usually are charged $60 a visit, while those with coverage typically pay the same $20 copayment they would in a doctor's office (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 5/20).
Retail health clinics "are not appropriate for infants, children and adolescents," Jay Berkelhamer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, writes in response to an opinion piece by Grace-Marie Turner that appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week (Berkelhamer, Wall Street Journal, 5/19).
Turner, president of the Galen Institute, wrote, "Political leaders across the country seeking to expand government's role in health care should take note" of the "rapidly expanding" retail clinic industry, which provides U.S. residents "more accessible and more affordable health care" (California Healthline, 5/14).
According to Berkelhamer, retail clinics deny children continuity of care. He also says that "making a diagnosis without the child's complete medical history is risky, and underlying conditions can go undetected." He adds that "public health issues could result from patients with contagious diseases visiting the store."
Berkelhamer concludes that children "deserve the best quality health care, so that they can become healthy adults. You can't find that at a retail store" (Wall Street Journal, 5/19).