Saturday, August 18, 2007

The OPEC of Health Care: The AMA

I have written several posts on convenient, low-cost, consumer-friendly, market-driven, walk-in health care clinics in retail stores like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and CVS, go here, here, and here. This trend seems to me like one of the most promising solutions to the status quo of high-cost, consumer-unfriendly, non-market-driven health care in the U.S.

As I have asked before, which group do you think would be the most vocal in its opposition to this trend of market-driven health care? Well, of course it's the "OPEC of Health Care": the American Medical Association, trying to protect its cartel, see the WSJ article at the link below. Well, at least one member of the AMA's cartel is open to market-driven health care, see his letter below which appears in today's WSJ:

Your article "States Boost Scrutiny of Drugstore Clinics" (Personal Journal, Aug. 9) identifies a key problem confronting American health care today: opposition to change from the medical establishment. Many state regulators and physician groups, including the American Medical Association, oppose retail health clinics, which provide easy access to low-cost health care in retail settings. These clinics, with care provided by nurse practitioners, are emerging because of a shortage of primary-care doctors, which is forecast to worsen in the next 20 years; the emergence of higher deductibles and higher co-pays, forcing consumers to bear more of the cost of care and to become smarter health-care shoppers; and the rising number of medically uninsured, who, studies show, are willing to pay for care, but not at the exorbitant rates charged by emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics.

Medical literature consistently shows that care provided by nurse practitioners is comparable to that provided by physicians. In all of the major retail clinic chains, nurse practitioners use evidence-based treatment protocols and state-of-the-art software to standardize care.

A constant refrain of those opposed to retail health clinics is that continuity of care will suffer. Continuity isn't interrupted, however, if a patient tells his primary-care doctor that he went to a retail health clinic on a Sunday to have his poison ivy treated for $35 after waiting five minutes, when the alternative is to go to the local ER, wait as long as eight to 10 hours, and pay more than $300.

~J. Kevin Shushtari, M.D. and Chief Hospitalist, Hospital Internists of New London, New London, Conn.


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