Convenient, Affordable Health Care: Retail Clinics
I have posted previously on low-cost, consumer-friendly, market-driven, walk-in retail health care clinics in retail stores like Walgreens, CVS and Wal-Mart, see here, here, here and here.
In today's WSJ, there is an excellent article by the CEO of RediClinic, one of the nation's largest convenient care providers (mostly in Wal-Marts), "Health Care When You Want It," here are some highlights:
1. There are about 400 such clinics today and could be several thousand more in the next few years.
2. Convenient care clinics are small health-care facilities with new brand names like RediClinic, MinuteClinic, and Take Care Health Clinics. Most are located in high-traffic retail outlets with pharmacies, such as Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreen stores.
3. Convenient care clinics have been embraced by consumers, who give them consistently high marks for patient satisfaction: 97% of the more than 4,000 RediClinic patients surveyed this year said they would recommend RediClinic to their relatives and friends. This is because the clinics are delivering something that is all too rare in our system -- convenient and affordable health care.
4. The quality of care at convenient care clinics stems from their use of nationally certified nurse practitioners, who are registered nurses with master's degrees or comparable advanced training. Research over the past 30 years has consistently shown that the primary care provided by nurse practitioners is comparable in quality to that provided by physicians, though nurse practitioners are still required to collaborate with local physicians in most states.
5. Treatment for most common ailments ranges from $40 to $70 and preventive services start as low as $15, significantly less than what most physicians, urgent care clinics or emergency rooms charge. Indeed, research shows that as many as 50% of the people who seek care at overburdened emergency rooms could be treated much less expensively in convenient care clinics. Prices are prominently displayed so patients know what they will pay before they are treated, and visits are covered by a growing number of insurance plans, including Medicare.
6. As would be expected, their growth is being threatened by burdensome regulations in some states and opposition from some corners of high-priced organized medicine (MDs, AMA, etc). Instead of opposing convenient care, physicians should be working collaboratively with operators -- as many physicians are today -- to fill the critical need that all Americans share for easier access to high-quality, affordable health care.