Thursday, August 23, 2007

Private Industry Solving What Government Can't

August 23, 2007

Drugstore Clinics Spread, and Scrutiny Grows



The concept has been called urgent care “lite”: Patients who are tired of waiting days to see a doctor for bronchitis, pinkeye or a sprained ankle can instead walk into a nearby drugstore and, at lower cost, with brief waits, see a doctor or a nurse and then fill a prescription on the spot.
With demand for primary care doctors surpassing the supply in many parts of the country, the number of these retail clinics in drugstores has exploded over the past two years, and several companies operating them are now aggressively seeking to open clinics in New York City.
But with their increasing popularity, the clinics are drawing mounting scrutiny. Several states including New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and California are examining ways to more closely monitor the clinics, which are overseen by a hodgepodge of state agencies applying a wide and inconsistent range of regulations.
More than 700 clinics are operating across the country at chain stores including Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens and Duane Reade.
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This is not a total answer, but it's part of one. I have long advocated for McDonalds-style walk in medical technology centers, to take the incredible load off emergency rooms and the needy who use them for primary care.
While Congress dithers, presidential candidates fuss and the president holds up child health care, private companies are offering solutions. Time perhaps to try to solve the 'hodgepodge' at state and federal levels. You can stand back and watch the smoke from the pharma and medical insurance lobbyists.
But reason will prevail, even if it's delivered at the point of a profit.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Health Care, check out Opinion-Columns.com