AMA wants investigation of store-based health clinics

Yesterday, the American Medical Association said it had adopted recommendations for state and federal agencies to investigate store-based health clinics. At its annual meeting, the AMA announced that it was worried about possible conflicts of interest, patients’ welfare, and liability concerns. Here’s the directive they issued:

The nation’s physician leaders meeting at the AMA Annual Meeting voted to adopt the following directive instructing the AMA to:

  1. ask the appropriate state and federal agencies to investigate ventures between retail clinics and pharmacy chains with an emphasis on inherent conflicts of interest in such relationships, patients’ welfare and risk, and professional liability concerns.
  2. continue to work with interested state and specialty medical societies in developing guidelines for model legislation that regulates the operation of store-based health clinics.
  3. oppose waiving any state and/or federal regulations for store-based health clinics that do not comply with existing standards of medical practice facilities.

Sounds like the nation’s largest medical association is worried about the competition. Low-cost and convenient health clinics employ nurse practitioners and some physicians and are operated in retail outlets such as Wal-Mart, CVS, and Walgreen’s. Many of the health clinics are affiliated with hospitals or health care facilities.

Health clinics provide inexpensive medical services for many people who are uninsured or who have minor emergencies. According to a survey for Wal-Mart, more than half of the patients who went to one of its health clinics were uninsured. Many clinic customers too — about 15 percent — said that without the clinics they would have gone to a hospital emergency room — which puts a huge burden on more costly emergency care services.

Here’s an article that provides a positive view of some of the potential benefits of store-based health clinics.