Retail Health Clinic Growth Limited in California
The number of retail health clinics is increasing nationwide, but regulatory obstacles have limited their expansion in California, the East Bay Business Times reports.
Many retail clinics employ nurse practitioners to help reduce overhead costs, but California law requires nurses to be supervised by physicians, and nurses' salaries are higher in California than in other states.
QuickHealth just opened its ninth retail clinic in a Wal-Mart store in Fremont. QuickHealth clinics are able to offer a wider range of services because they are staffed with physicians and physicians' assistants, according to QuickHealth CEO David Mandelkern. The chain of clinics targeted at uninsured patients offers 15-minute physician consultations for $49.
However, not all retail medical clinics have been successful in the state. For example, Wellness Express, QuickHealth's chief competitor in Northern California, last November closed its four clinics inside Longs Drugs stores.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said retail clinics can help expand access to health care as part of his plan to overhaul California's health care system.
Massachusetts passed health care reform legislation similar to what Schwarzenegger has proposed and has altered rules to allow pharmacy chain CVS Caremark to open 20 in-store retail clinics, the Business Times reports.
The American Medical Association is urging retail clinics to adopt a code to treat only minor conditions. In addition, the association has called for an investigation into possible conflicts of interest between the clinics and in-store pharmacies operated by retailers.
Safety-net providers who serve the uninsured warn that the clinics are not a substitute for preventive care, regular check-ups or primary care clinics (Hogarth, East Bay Business Times, 8/13).