Retail Health Clinics Open in Orange County Pharmacies
On Wednesday, a national chain of retail health clinics opened 11 locations in CVS pharmacies across Orange County, the Orange County Register reports.
Minute Clinic provides routine medical services, such as vaccinations and pregnancy tests, as well as treatment for various mild ailments, such as ear infections and strep throat.
Each clinic is open every day and is staffed by nurse practitioners, who can also prescribe medication. Patients do not need to make appointments, and a 15-minute visit typically costs $59.
While Minute Clinic is one of several chains to begin operating in California, its entry represents a growing popularity of the clinics among California residents where 6.5 million residents are uninsured.
Michael Howe, CEO of Minute Clinic, said California is "a market that understands health care innovation."
The clinics hope to attract insured consumers who are looking for faster service than a physician can provide, as well as uninsured individuals who seek low-cost care.
Howe said the clinics also work closely with local providers to help nurse practitioners refer patients to a primary care physician.
As health care costs continue to rise, some insurers have begun covering the cost of retail clinic visits as a low-cost alternative to a physician visit.
A report last month by the California HealthCare Foundation found that 42% of retail clinic visits were covered by insurers. Copayments range from $15 to $35.
The clinics store patients' records electronically and send the electronic health records to patients' primary care physicians (Perkes, Orange County Register, 10/3).
Retail clinics are growing throughout California to meet consumers' demand for medical treatment that does not entail long wait times in emergency departments or physicians' offices, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
However, some health professionals are concerned that patients will begin relying on retail health clinics for primary care.
Kimberly Wyard -- CEO of Northeast Valley Health, which operates 10 community clinics in California -- said, "It's too soon to really tell if [retail clinics will] catch on, because at the end of the day, people want a physician who knows their medical history."
Margaret Laws of CHCF said, "I think a really important question is if you go to a retail clinic with a basic acute need, are you going to be treated appropriately?"
The American Medical Association has listed guidelines aimed toward retail clinics that will ensure proper medical care.
William Hazel of the AMA said, "For patients to receive optimal care, store-based health clinics should provide a limited and well-defined list of health care services and take steps to ensure continuity of care with a physician in the local community" (Abram, Los Angeles Daily News, 10/3).
In a recent report for the CHCF, Mary Kate Scott of consulting firm Scott & Co. projected that 700 retail clinics would be open by the end of 2007 and that 1,500 clinics by the end of next year.
Scott estimated that 6,000 clinics would be open by the end of 2012 (Wisenberg Brin, Dow Jones, 10/2).
Take Care Health Systems, a subsidiary of Walgreen that operates a chain of retail health clinics based in pharmacies, on Tuesday announced plans to open 100 additional clinics in nine new markets nationwide, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports.
Take Care, which Walgreen acquired in May, currently operates 63 clinics in Chicago; Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and St. Louis. Under the expansion, Take Care will open clinics in Cincinnati; Cleveland; Houston; Las Vegas; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Tampa, Fla.; and Tucson, Ariz. By the end of 2008, Take Care will operate 400 clinics nationwide (AP/Wichita Eagle, 10/3).