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Home » Trends & Principles » AMA versus Retail Clinics: Patient Safety or Protectionism?

Unsurprisingly, the American Medical Association has come down on the side of paternalistic “patient safety” (just looking out for us little ole “patients”) in expressing concerns about the rise of retail clinics for minor health concerns, as noted in this article in The Chicago Tribune:

The AMA’s policymaking House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago, said lack of regulation at retail clinics might be fostering liability concerns, health risks and potential conflicts of interest between the clinics’ nurse practitioners who order prescriptions and the pharmacies that fill them. Often, the clinic is near the pharmacy counter in those retail stores.

At present, most of these retail clinics can be found in stores like Wal-Mart or the like, and are open every day with no appointments necessary. The clinics feel this opens up patient care to a wider audience, and insurance is often accepted just at a doctor’s office. Otherwise, the service can be cheaper than a doctor’s visit, at around $60/visit. The clinics treat patients with routine maladies and are under physicians’ supervision, although doctors usually are not actually in the clinic. Most clinics are for ailments such as ear and sinus infections, strep throat and athlete’s foot.

Obvious protectionist measure? Is patient care or safety really in jeopardy if they’re treated for athlete’s foot in one of these clinics?

The nice thing about this model is that the market will tell us whether there’s enough demand to make these clinics viable in the long-term. It worked for optometrists. But if nobody goes to these retail clinics (or not enough people go), they won’t be around for very long.