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Retail clinics can be big curb on total health costs


While the rise of retail clinics may chop physicians’ and hospitals’ incomes, they’ll be a boon to curbing overall healthcare costs.

A Robert Wood Johnson report, “Building a Culture of Health: The Value Proposition of Retail Clinics,” found that retail or urgent-care clinics could handle up to 27 percent of emergency-room visits — saving billions of dollars a year. The absence of people who can be more efficiently and economically treated outside an ER should help free up more attention to patients who truly do need the ER.

This will almost certainly cut into the incomes of U.S. physicians, who remain by far the world’s best paid. The clinics, of course, are staffed by nurses, nurse practitioners and/or physician assistants.

Retail clinics of the CVS Minute Clinic type have long been common in Western Europe and other places but until recently have been fairly rare in the U.S. because of pushback from physician groups. For example,  such groups in Rhode Island, CVS’s headquarters, kept out Minute Clinics until very recently.

Now, however, hospital systems and doctors (pushed by state regulators)  seek ways to partner with them. For instance, a retail clinic may do a deal to  funnel patients to certain hospitals and physician groups. That, too, will arouse anger among competitors — and maybe even the Federal Trade Commission.



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(617) 230-4965

Wellesley, Mass