Medical clinics housed in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail outlets are proliferating; there are about 500 now in operation and perhaps 200 more expected to join them by the end of 2007. Variously known as retail clinics, convenient care clinics, and limited-service clinics, these facilities offer basic health care services on a walk-in basis. They are most commonly staffed by nurse practitioners, though some employ physicians. While surveys show that most consumers have yet to experience this type of health care, the reactions of those who have been served in such settings have been quite positive. Physician response to this new model has been mixed, with skepticism prevailing. Commercial insurers are gradually moving to covering a clinic visit as they would a visit to a doctor’s office. This Forum session explored the promise and the limitations of a model that seeks to make basic medical care more accessible and affordable. It also considered how quality and continuity of care for patients may be helped or hindered by the entry of these new players.
Sandra Festa Ryan, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer, Take Care Health Systems (subsidiary of Walgreens); Dean Lin, Chief Executive Officer, CareWorks Convenient Healthcare (subsidiary of Geisinger Health System); Bruce Auerbach, MD, Vice President, Chief of Emergency Services, Sturdy Memorial Hospital, Attleboro, Massachusetts
For more information, see Mary Kate Scott, “Health Care in the Express Lane: Retail Clinics Go Mainstream,” California Healthcare Foundation, September 2007.