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May 02, 2007

Minute Clinics coming soon to a CVS near you

"You're sick.  We're quick!" 

That's the MinuteClinic slogan.  And these clinics may soon be in a CVS drugstore or two near you.  The Boston Globe's Liz Kowalczyk reports today that CVS filed a "template" clinic license application, with an eye to opening its first MinuteClinic in Weymouth.  If all goes according to plan, CVS will open another 20-30 sites.

John Auerbach, the new Commissioner of Public Health, said the application is under review, but expressed a concern that a proliferation of MinuteClinics could undermine the ability of community health centers to continue to care for their populations if retail clinics siphon off the less-sick patients.

This is exactly the same sort of issue faced by community hospitals around the country, as physicians and others have established ambulatory care centers for day surgery, imaging, and the like, and even single-specialty hospitals, which tend to have the effect of siphoning off less complex cases, and leaving the hospitals with the more complex cases and the uninsured, thus undermining hospitals' ability to cross-subsidize the cost of providing services to the latter (the traditional approach to health care financing in this country).  (See HealthBlawg post on single specialty hospitals with link to the HHS report to Congress on the subject.)

The Globe quotes the usual suspects, who say the usual things -- this country needs to invest in primary care, this approach to care will fragment care and full information will not be available to clinicians when they need it, PCPs shouldn't be burdened with requests for information from retail clinics, and

The company wants to establish referral relationships with physicians, and instead of being a threat to their business, [the MinuteClinic CEO] said the clinics could relieve pressure on their practices, especially after hours. And, he said, patient satisfaction is high.

The company is in discussions with payors as well.

See my earlier posts on the subject here and here.

Update 5/6/07:  The discussion continues in posts and comments here (in English) and here (English and Latin).

-- David Harlow

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