Mayo joins movement to provide quick health care in retail setting

| December 20, 2007

From the Post-Bulletin comes this story about retail medicine from Mayo Clinic.  Readers of are familiar with postings about retail medicine outlets.  The numbers in bold below seem staggering.  I suppose it allows medicine to be "as far forward as possible".  Actually, my recollection of our "primary care provider" is actually a retail ER shop next to a video store in a strip mall by our house.  It was always open, staffed with competent caring physicians with minimal waiting, on-site radiology and laboratory and instant access to transfer if needed nearby.  That physician saw us through broken bones, infections, drug reactions and ultimately well-health visits for routine screening tests.  That business no longer exists and that physician was not considered "mainstream" but evidently people think there is something to this model.  Where does it leave the laboratory community?  While AP will likely not be affected at all, CP could actually benefit from increased points of access to care and increased testing (whether indicated or not).  Primary care physicians in traditional practices may stand to lose the most.

ALBERT LEA — Not too far from its world-renowned Rochester medical center, Mayo Clinic is testing a new way to deliver health care — in a shopping mall next to a nail salon.

If plans go well, more "minute clinics" could pop up in other communities within the Mayo Health System, of which Austin Medical Center is part.

For now, Mayo’s first effort is in Albert Lea, where a lone nurse practitioner staffs the Albert Lea Medical Center Express Care clinic, treating simple ailments from a 262-square-foot kiosk. It amounts to a surprise turnaround in the medical establishment’s response to the proliferation of MinuteClinics and similar ventures.

Mayo is hoping that the year-old Albert Lea clinic can be a prototype for similar clinics across Mayo Health System in southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa. Mayo officials recently announced plans to open a Mayo Express Care clinic early next year in a Rochester strip mall.

Doctors have previously criticized retail clinics for providing disjointed and possibly unsafe care, but now medical centers are responding to the phenomenon with their own retail clinics as a way to keep existing patients and reach new ones.

"A couple of years ago, medical centers thought if they ignored (the trend), it would go away," said Tricia Dahl, associate clinic administrator at the Albert Lea Medical Center. "But patients tell us this is what they want."

Other large health care providers are getting into the act. Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services has opened Fairview Express Care clinics in Coborn’s Superstores in Albertville and Elk River and plans two more in Princeton and Hastings. In Rochester, Olmsted Medical Center opened OMC FastCare at a ShopKo last summer and plans another late this year.

Tom Holets, president of Allina Medical Clinic, owner of 45 primary care clinics in the Twin Cities area, said retail clinics are "clearly not a flash-in-the-pan event." Allina isn’t in the business yet but recently finished a three-year study that concluded "we must be in this marketplace," he said.

Five years after the first MinuteClinic opened in the Twin Cities, 362 outlets have opened in 24 states with a goal of 400 by the end of the year. The no-frills clinics offer a limited menu of services, low prices and walk-in access.

MinuteClinic is now owned by CVS Caremark Corp., the country’s biggest provider of prescription drugs. Target and a host of other chains followed suit.

The clinics have "skimmed off simple health conditions that are reimbursed well (and) left primary care clinics with their noses barely above water," said Dr. Loie Lenarz, chief clinical officer at Fairview.

Traditional medical institutions are hoping to bring their own assets to the retail clinic business. At Mayo Express Care, for instance, a nurse practitioner will have access to patient medical records already stored at Mayo.

That could help address one concern about retail clinics among the medical establishment, that they result in fragmented care.

"We’re looking at this as part of a system of care," said Dr. David Herman, who leads the primary care effort at Mayo.

Category: General Healthcare News

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