The Financial Times on Walk-in Health Clinics

Eventually, the big international business papers are able to catch up to Anchor Rising’s coverage of an issue. Here’s the Financial Times on the movement towards in-store health clinics by companies such as Wal-Mart and CVS

Walk-in clinics represent one of the most advanced and aggressive attempts by US business and entrepreneurs to drive reform of the healthcare system.
This year hundreds will be opened in some of the US’s largest drugstore and retail groups, and thousands of clinics could be running in the next decade.
Advocates say the clinics will improve access to healthcare and reduce costs; that they will reduce more expensive visits to hospital emergency rooms; and that they will catch some illnesses before they become serious and costly. As a result, physicians will have more time for complex cases….
More than anything, however, the retail clinics show that business is pushing for change on its own without waiting for government. And walk-in clinics could do for US healthcare what low-cost Southwest Airlines did for the airline industry, by making healthcare better, faster, and cheaper.
Here’s the anti-clinic arguments presented in the article, which I’ll admit, I don’t find very convincing…
First, despite US business’s push to inject and increase consumer principles into healthcare, it is still unproven whether people understand how to shop for medical care like other products, or even whether they want to do so. Clinics also could be a controversial way for employers to push more health costs on to employees.
Second, retail clinics claim they will increase doctors’ business by referring new patients or allowing them to spend more time on higher-value tasks. But experts agree that they could be sapping high-margin, easy tasks like vaccinations from doctors’ businesses, and that clinics do not yet generate significant referral business to doctors.
Third, the clinics are for-profit businesses. Dr Osborn, of Illinois, says: “They’re not at this to increase doctors’ business; they’re in it to make money. That’s a smokescreen.”
Not to make too much of a direct comparison, but isn’t the philosophy that it’s OK to have a system that doesn’t really work as long as nobody makes money the philosophy that killed the old Communist bloc?

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17 years ago

I have yet to be convinced that this is anything BUT a good idea. And with my HSA, I can go visit one of these quick clinics, get that sniffle checked out and get some medication without waiting three weeks to be seen by my doctor.

17 years ago

Eye care is the one part of the American healthcare system that has largely run on a free market basis for years. Have you ever heard anybody complain about the poor quality of eyecare in the U.S.? Have you ever heard anybody complain that consumers were incapable of making comparisons between competing eyecare providers?
Why should the walk-in clinic model operate any less effectively?

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