BOSTON Massachusetts health officials have approved regulatory changes allowing the operation of retail-based medical clinics at pharmacies, according to published sources.
The regulations come in response to a 2007 CVS application to open in-store health clinics in the state. The decision by health officials affected whether to allow the pharmacy retailer to open a MinuteClinic in Weymouth, Mass., the first of 20 or 30 statewide, the company said.
In the application, CVS reportedly asked the Department of Public Health to waive some of the state’s requirements for licensing clinics. For example, because none of the conditions treated at the clinics requires a blood test, CVS reportedly sought approval to waive the requirement for blood collection equipment and facilities.
Officials say the new regulations also will help not-for-profit hospitals, community health centers and others expand basic health services.
Rather than considering applications that require numerous waivers, state officials decided in September to consider an alternative set of regulations that, if approved, would make the application process for operating limited-service medical clinics transparent. The Department of Public Health set two public hearings—Sept. 5 and 18—so that the public could comment on the matter.
Critics say the clinics could pose a conflict of interest, putting profits ahead of patients’ health. But supporters say they will expand access to health care and help ease conditions at crowded emergency rooms.
“MinuteClinic looks forward to working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as it develops the regulations that will guide limited service clinics in the state, and we are pleased to be part of the public dialogue today,” said MinuteClinic chief executive officer Michael Howe in a statement from the Sept. 5 hearing in Boston on 105 CMR 140.000, Licensure of Clinics. “Massachusetts is leading the nation in health care reform, and limited scope clinics have an important role to play. MinuteClinic offers convenient, affordable access to quality health care. MinuteClinic also ensures continuity of care through electronic health records and by referring patients without a primary care provider to doctors who are accepting new patients.”
Drug Store News estimates put the number of in-store clinics operating nationwide at more than 900 at the end of 2007.