Retail Health Clinics Expand Across Southern California
CVS subsidiary MinuteClinic opened 25 offices in Southern California in 77 days during the last quarter of 2007 after making operational changes to comply with state licensing regulations, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
California law requires medical clinics to be owned and operated by physicians, which forced MinuteClinic to hire doctors to oversee its operations. In California, MinuteClinic offices are staffed by nurse practitioners, with doctors periodically reviewing patient charts and passing along recommendations to a district manager, who provides feedback to the nurses.
The walk-in clinics, which operate in CVS stores, offer patients a diagnosis and, if necessary, a prescription in about 15 minutes. Services at the clinics include flu shots, immunizations and treatment for minor ailments, such as strep throat or ear infections. The clinics charge $59, with some services covered by insurers.
Experts expect the number of retail clinics to continue to grow as patients seek out faster and more convenient health care options. Some providers also are following the trend, including Northern California's Sutter Health System, which opened clinics in Rite Aid pharmacy stores in the Sacramento area.
The California Medical Association has not taken a position on retail clinics. Dev Gnanadev, president-elect of CMA, said retail clinics will not alleviate the crowding of emergency departments because they target insured patients and those willing to pay full price in order to save time.
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association has called for investigations into whether health care at the clinics is compromised by a drive to boost sales of prescriptions and other products (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 1/23).