NEW YORK — An article recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shed a highly positive light on the convenient care industry, and outlined significant ways in which retail-based clinics are playing an important role in today’s U.S. healthcare system by improving access, cost and coordination of care for patients.
In looking at access to care — which is exacerbated by the shortage of primary care physicians — and cost of care, the article, written by Christine K. Cassel, M.D., with the American Board of Internal Medicine in Philadelphia, stated that retail-based health clinics provide a solution as they can provide patients with timely, convenient and cost-effective access to care.
The article also pointed to a third significant challenge facing the U.S. healthcare system today: coordination of care, especially for those patients with multiple chronic conditions. “Lack of coordination is thought to cost the healthcare system billions of dollars. To date, this has not been a major area of expertise or availability of retail clinics but, as they consider a role in chronic care, it is coming into focus. Indeed, chronic care plans are an increasingly important priority for retail health clinics,” the article stated.
“With good communication between multiple specialists, convenient access in evenings and on weekends, and familiarity with local community resources, the retail clinic potentially could be an important component of coordination of care aimed at reducing disease exacerbations, unnecessary hospitalizations and adverse drug interactions," the article continued. "If this vision were realized, the retail clinic phenomenon could be transformative for a vast number of patients in the United States.”
Furthermore, the article highlighted the importance of other healthcare professionals — including nurse practitioners and pharmacists — as part of an “effective team of care.”
“The retail clinic is a site where first-line roles for advanced practice nurses and pharmacists have already been shown to be effective in managing acute uncomplicated conditions. Pharmacists’ skills are underutilized if they are limited to their role in filling prescriptions — the so-called behind-the-counter functions. In effective teamwork approaches to chronic illness, exemplified by many models of geriatric care, the pharmacist is an active part of the healthcare team — in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. In a retail clinic with a pharmacy, clinical expertise is expanded by access to the pharmacist and the pharmacy database available in that setting. This same team, with active physician involvement, could provide the nidus for better management of more complex chronic illnesses,” the article stated.
In looking at the future role of the retail clinic, the article stated, “There are challenges, but this is happening already. The question is whether this phenomenon will grow and flourish in the ways described here or whether 20th-century attitudes about physician and hospital dominance in health care will prevent market-based solutions to the healthcare access and cost crisis. This model is a challenge to medical and hospital leadership, as well as to leaders in the retail health clinic industry, as they pursue the potential opportunities and benefits for the American people.”
To read the entire article click here.