Minute Clinics: A Final Word, For Now

It’s time for us to close the loop on this chapter of MinuteClinics.

Careful readers of the MMS’ materials over the last seven months know that we had many concerns over how CVS planned to roll out these facilities. We stated clearly that if CVS wanted to call them clinics, they should act like clinics, no matter how limited their services.

I remain unconvinced that these clinics will save money, which is the hope of good people like Rick Lord at AIM. I remain skeptical that they will augment our fragile primary care system.  I am actually worried they will further undermine it. I remain skeptical of many more things, more than I have space to list.

Perhaps this is an idea that can be tried, at least for a few years, now that the state has imposed some reasonable rules for their operations. I wish the DPH and the Public Health Council would have gone farther in its rule-making, but nothing in life is perfect.

The real story here is that our often-criticized regulatory system worked. When these clinics surfaced last spring, CVS asked for a virtually regulation-free blessing from the state. With CVS’ political and economic firepower, it would not have been a surprise if they got what they asked for.

But they didn’t. A large number of responsible individuals and groups with direct knowledge of the Massachusetts health care environment stepped forward and raised many legitimate questions that slowed what seemed like a runaway train. We made strong, reasonable arguments that the application should not be fast-tracked. Then we argued that some basic, fair regulations had to be in place. The MMS is proud of our commitment to the public health, patient safety and access to quality care. And we are proud of our role in facilitating oversight of limited service clinics. DPH Commissioner John Auerbach did a great job managing the issues, and the Public Health Council did its job, as well.

The DPH will be watching what happens over the next few years, and so will we.

Bruce Auerbach, MD
President-Elect
Massachusetts Medical Society

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