Retail Clinics

Mini-Clinics: Not So Fast!

Posted in Health Policy, Retail Clinics on May 2nd, 2007 by MMS – 8 Comments

CVS has announced plans to open 20 to 30 "mini clinics" throughout the state.

At first glance, these “mini-clinics” may seem like a good idea: convenience, extended hours, multiple locations, no long lines in emergency departments, no long waits for appointments with primary care physicians.

Not so fast.

Concern #1: Safety. We’re worried that medical care will be delivered without the knowledge of the patient’s primary care physician and without the knowledge or availability of a patient’s medical history. This raises the risk of medical error. Elderly persons with multiple chronic conditions, on multiple prescriptions, are even more challenging.

Concern #2: They could kill our fragile primary care system. Our primary care network is already in crisis. Allowing mini-clinics to skim the easy, less complex patients might be the death knell of primary care, and our community health centers, too. Who would pick up the slack if that happens? Our emergency departments, of course, which are already over capacity. In other words, these clinics could replace what already exists — with something worse.

Concern #3: Conflict of interest. It’s an inherent ethical conflict when a pharmacy is located at the same site as a primary care clinic, owned by the same company. There’s good reason why most doctors can’t dispense drugs in their own offices; the same reasoning applies to mini clinics like these.

We don’t think the Department of Public Health should allow mini-clinics to cut corners on good standards that serve the public well. If such organizations want to establish clinics, they should be subject to the same rules and regulations that govern other, designated sites for medical clinics.

Kenneth Peelle, MD
MMS President