Retail Clinics Expand Nationwide, Slower in California
As walk-in medical clinics gain popularity nationwide in retail stores such as Wal-Mart, growth in California has been limited due to state regulations, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The clinics are operated by nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can treat common illnesses and prescribe medication. A visit to a retail clinic can cost half as much as a visit to a traditional doctor's office, and uninsured or underinsured patients are becoming a primary customer base for the clinics.
Mary Kate Scott, who conducted a study on retail clinics for the California HealthCare Foundation, said that clinic patients are likely to be low-income, Latino and younger than age 40.
Hundreds of clinics will open nationwide next year, but only six currently operate in California, according to the Union-Tribune. State law requires health clinics to be owned and operated by licensed health care professionals. Another law for clinics requires at least one supervising physician for every four nurse practitioners and two physician assistants.
In other states, the ratio requirement is larger, or does not exist, making operation less expensive.
Paul Kaufmann -- founder and president of WellnessExpress, which owns three of the six clinics in California -- said he avoided state restrictions by setting up his clinics under a separate physician-owned company that contracts with his firm to operate and manage them.
Kaufmann said he plans to open 28 more clinics in the state by the end of next year (Darcé, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/5).