Retail Health Clinics Expand Services, MDs Protest
WSJ -- Retail health clinics are adding treatments for chronic diseases such as asthma to their repertoire, hoping to find steadier revenue, but putting the clinics into greater competition with doctors' groups and hospitals.
Walgreen Co.'s Take Care retail clinic recently started a pilot program in Tampa and Orlando offering injected and infused drugs for asthma and osteoporosis to Medicare patients. At some MinuteClinics run by CVS Caremark Corp., nurse practitioners now counsel teenagers about acne, recommend over-the-counter products and sometimes prescribe antibiotics.
Walgreen, the second-largest pharmacy chain by stores, plans to start a pilot program for managing diabetes in coming months. CVS's MinuteClinic is piloting a rapid test for conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, at its Atlanta clinics and working with the Cleveland Clinic to provide care to asthma patients.
MP: So how are the MDs responding to the increased competition from retail clinics? First of all, they don't like the competition:
Such moves (expansion of services at retail clinics) are raising the ire of physicians' groups that see the in-store clinics as inappropriate venues for treating complex illnesses. In May, the Massachusetts Medical Society urged its members to press insurance companies on co-payments to eliminate any financial incentive to use retail clinics.
But second of all, they are responding to the competition from retail clinics by acting more competitively themselves:
The clinics are helping alter the practice of medicine. Doctors are expanding office hours to evenings and weekends. Hospitals are opening more urgent-care centers to treat relatively minor health problems.