Safety Concerns Prompt Some States To Regulate In-Store Health Clinics
More states are looking into the quality of care offered by clinics in retail locations in response to a campaign by the American Medical Association and physician groups that asked states to investigate in-store clinics, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Despite arguments from retail clinics that AMA's criticisms "are overblown and motivated by financial concerns," some states that once gave the clinics "extensive waivers from hygiene and safety restrictions" are beginning to crack down as the facilities grow in number nationwide, according to the Journal.
There are more than 730 retail clinics throughout the U.S., and CVS Caremark, Wal-Mart Stores, Walgreen and Target all have plans to expand their number of clinics this year.
Some have established new restrictions on in-store clinics, while others ban them altogether.
Rhode Island has refused to let CVS Caremark open clinics in the state; Florida requires clinics to post a sign stating whether a physician is present and disclose staffers' credentials to patients; and California has mandated that retail clinics be owned by a physician. Meanwhile, some states, such as Texas and Wyoming, have reduced restrictions on the treatments that nurse practitioners can administer in the clinics, the Journal reports.
In the debate over regulations, CVS Caremark has been working to demonstrate that its clinics adequately administer the appropriate treatments within the scope of services provided. Company officials cite a study to be released later this year in the American Journal of Medical Quality finding that for sore throats -- the most common condition treated at in-store clinics -- the facilities gave proper treatment 99.15% of the time, according to the Journal.
Forrester Research found that patients at retail clinics use them because of convenience, not quality, with 7% of respondents to a survey saying they thought the care they received was better than that at a typical visit to a physician office, the Journal reports.
After reviewing a CVS Caremark proposal to open its MinuteClinics as the state's first retail clinics, health regulators in Massachusetts on Wednesday proposed regulations that now are under consideration by the state's Public Health Council, the Journal reports (Seward, Wall Street Journal, 8/9).
During a hearing, council members expressed concerns that patients would not receive adequate care if they go to retail clinics and that patients may use the clinics to obtain prescription drugs that their regular physicians would not prescribe, the Boston Globe reports.
Paul Dreyer, director of the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Quality, said that such abuse would not be a problem because the clinics will not "be prescribing drugs of interest to drug abusers."
Physician groups, hospitals and community health centers also expressed concerns about how patient safety and infection control would be monitored at the clinics, according to the Globe.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will hold a public hearing Sept. 5. If Massachusetts allows retail clinics, CVS Caremark's clinics each would need individual states' approval to operate, the Globe reports (Smith/Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 8/9).
Bruce Auerbach, president-elect of the Massachusetts Medical Society and chief of emergency medicine at Sturdy Memorial Hospital, said, "You're crowding people who may be sick, not to mention potentially exposing someone who's just trying to buy Doritos" (Wall Street Journal, 8/9).
Michael Howe, CEO of CVS Caremark's MinuteClinic, in an e-mail said, "MinuteClinic can serve a critical health care need by providing convenient, affordable access to quality health care for common medical conditions. As Massachusetts expands access to health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people, we know that demand for basic health care services will increase" (Boston Globe, 8/9).