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A recent survey found a significant increase in the number of U.S. adults who have visited a retail clinic in recent years. The growth is attributed to a rise in the number of clinics nationwide, as well as patients’ positive response to the convenience and lower cost of such clinic locations.
The findings come as little surprise and one should expect to see increased usage going forward. Why? Because health care is becoming increasingly consumer-centric as patients not only battle rising health care costs but also a growing shortage of primary care physicians. Patients want — need — convenient, high-quality health care services that are also cost effective. Convenient care clinics are increasingly illustrating the important role they play within the U.S. healthcare system.
According to numbers provided by the Convenient Care Association, as few as 2% of medical students coming out of U.S. medical schools intend to pursue a career in general primary care. And the Department of Health and Human Services, reports that nearly 67 million people in the United States live in a primacy care shortage area. And here’s another alarming stat: It is estimated that the primary care physician shortage will reach about 60,000 by 2015.
Now factor in the fact that some 30 million Americans will gain health insurance in 2014 due to healthcare reform — further straining the already overloaded healthcare system.
It should also be noted that on the heels of the release of the survey results, CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic announced yet another clinical affiliation to add to its roster: New Jersey-based Virtua. Under this partnership, Virtua physicians will serve as medical directors at clinics in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, while the two companies collaborate on patient education and disease management initiatives.
The bottom line is that patients, as well as third-party payors and many others within the medical community, are increasingly realizing the vital role that retail-based health clinics, and the nurse practitioners working in those clinics, play in the U.S. healthcare system.
It is being illustrated by studies such as this one, the strides that are being made to ensure that nurse practitioners can practice to their fullest potential and the fact that The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American College of Nurse Practitioners will now merge to serve as one powerful voice for nurse practitioners.