Time magazine: Retail-based clinics play important role in healthcare system

6/12/2009

NEW YORK A recent article in Time magazine underscored the important role that retail-based clinics play in today's U.S. healthcare system, and is a strong sign that clinic expansion will continue.

"For all the complexities of the U.S. health-care crisis, most Americans experience the problem in a straightforward way: it's just too hard to schedule face time with your family doctor, and it costs too much when you finally get in the door. Of the approximately 1 million physicians working in the U.S., just 30% provide primary care. If you do get an appointment during the week, you'll probably have to take off time from work and carve out at least a few hours to sit in a waiting room. And if you get sick on a weekend, good luck," the article stated. "That, of course, is assuming that you have a doctor in the first place, not a given in a country where up to 50 million people lack health insurance."

The article, dated June 10, goes on to explain how, in the past decade, more and more pharmacy retailers, grocers and big-box stores have carved out space for the retail-based clinics. Today, there are currently more than 1,100 retail-based clinics in operation nationwide.

Aside from addressing the cost and access benefits to those patients with acute ailments, the article highlight that "the cornerstone of prevention is early detection." This is an important point that Time brings up as retail-based clinics and the nurse practitioners working in these facilities strive to augment - not replace - a patient's primary care provider.

In some cases, these clinics have even proven to be lifesavers as some patients have come in thinking they suffered from a minor ailment when it actually proved to be a serious medical condition that required immediate attention. In those situations, the nurse practitioners have helped patients get immediate medical attention by directing them to a primary care physician or to the emergency room.

The article also noted that some retailers are taking the concept further by working with local health systems and hospitals.

"In times of economic crisis, the ability of the free market to solve problems may come into question. But in one vital corner of the economy, a little creative capitalism is helping fill a gap," the article stated.

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