MinuteClinic makes health monitoring look easy

NEW YORK —Despite opposition from some physicians to the growing scope of services provided by many retail-based clinics, some retail-based clinics are moving ahead with chronic disease management, as evidenced by MinuteClinic.

MinuteClinic has officially announced the introduction of new health condition monitoring services for patients with diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and asthma.

The new monitoring services, called Monitoring Made Easy, are available at MinuteClinic locations in CVS/pharmacy stores in 20 states and Washington, D.C. The services, performed by MinuteClinic nurse practitioners and physician assistants, are designed to support patients with ongoing health conditions in between visits to their primary care providers, or to provide assistance to patients who may not receive regular care.

How it works: MinuteClinic will send all healthcare monitoring results to a primary care provider with patient permission. Visit summaries are sent via electronic medical record or fax, typically within 24 hours. In addition, MinuteClinic practitioners will help patients locate a primary care provider in the community if they do not have one. A collaborating physician, or medical director, is on-call during MinuteClinic operating hours.

When providing the services, practitioners review the patient’s medical history and perform an exam and tests based on nationally established clinical practice guidelines for standards of care, which may include an A1c test and foot exam for diabetes, breathing and oxygen level testing for asthma, a lipid profile for high cholesterol, and a blood pressure check and microalbumin test for high blood pressure. Most health insurance plans cover MinuteClinic health condition monitoring services. Self-pay visits start at $62, and patients are informed of additional lab charges at the time of their visit. A series of blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight evaluation screening services also are provided to patients who previously have not been diagnosed with a condition but want to determine if they are at risk.

The official launch of the monitoring services comes just months after the American Academy of Family Physicians board of directors revised its official policy on retail health clinics. In its revised policy statement, the AAFP noted that it does not endorse retail health clinics, and “opposes expansion of their scope of service, in particular, to include diagnosis, treatment and management of chronic medical conditions in this setting.”

Responding to the AAFP’s stance, MinuteClinic stated: “MinuteClinic, the pioneer and leader in retail health care, believes that retail healthcare centers are well-positioned to provide access to high-quality medical treatment for common illnesses, as well as to provide monitoring of chronic diseases. Both of these activities help to ease the burden on the primary care system and can be carried out successfully in collaboration with primary care physicians.”

“MinuteClinic does not intend to be the exclusive medical home for the patients we serve, and we encourage our patients to establish a relationship with a primary care physician if they don’t have one,” the statement continued. “MinuteClinic records are promptly sent to primary care physicians with patient permission. We are also collaborating with leading medical centers to ensure continuity of care.… We intend to continue to abide by the principles the AAFP laid out several years ago, and will continue to coordinate care with family practice physicians as recommended by AAFP as part of medical home activities. With the primary care shortage our country faces, and a profound need for convenient access to care, we believe we can play an important role in getting patients the care they need.”

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