business news in context, analysis with attitude

US News and World Report, in a story about how in-store medical clinics are gibing the mainstream medical profession “heartburn,” notes that at least one estimate – by the California Healthcare Foundation – suggests that there will be as many as 5,000 in-store health clinics operating in the US by 2012. This would represent significant growth from the fewer than 300 that were open in the US at the beginning of 2007, and the more than 700 expected to be open by the end of the year.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has been objecting to the clinic concept, saying that patients may not be receiving the best care because of a conflict of interest. The AMA says, according to US News, “that the pharmacy chains that have joint ventures with clinic businesses have an inherent self-interest in seeing that drugs are= prescribed and prescriptions filled at their store.”

However, the magazine notes, at least one of the clinic companies says that it has addressed the problem. Kent Lillemoe, CFO and CVS-owned MinuteClinic, says that only half of clinic patients even get a prescription: “Lillemoe says the company doesn't track whether the prescription is filled at CVS or indeed is filled at all. ‘That's part of our firewall,’ he says. ‘We don't think it's appropriate for us to know’.”
KC's View:
Look, it would be foolish to suggest that there aren’t potential conflicts and pitfalls in the in-store clinic business, but that doesn’t mean the concept should be stifled or stalled. The fact is that these clinics address a very real consumer need – making a certain kind of health care both accessible and affordable in a way that doctors’ offices and emergency rooms do not.

The AMA should be looking for ways to partner with these companies and embrace the concept, rather than fighting it … at least, it should if patient care rather than revenue really is the bottom line.