Recently, Massachusetts’ Public Health Council approved the establishment of retail clinics in the state. While chains such as CVS, Walgreens and Minute Clinic cheered, others, including the Mayor of Boston howled.
I have a hard time understanding what all the fuss is about.
Retail clinics can provide welcomed relief to overburdened healthcare institutions, such as hospital emergency rooms (ER) departments that are straining under the weight of increasing usage and lengthening wait times, especially in urban areas. Today’s Wall Street Journal ran a brief article highlighting a study which will be published today in the journal Health Affairs (full research paper here).
The researchers found ER wait times increasing 36% in a seven year time span (1997-2004) for general ER visits and wait times up 150% for heart-attack patients. This is something that all health industry stakeholders and politicians should be concerned about and need to keep an open-mind as to possible solutions for the problem will only get worse in the foreseeable future.
Luckily, many here in the Commonwealth, including CEO Paul Levy who overseas one of the largest hospitals in Boston, are much more open-minded than Mayor Menino. Levy, who is not a doctor but an excellent and thoughtful administrator took the AMA to task over this issue last year in one of his more controversial posts. One can only hope that the Mayor will come to his senses and allow these clinics within Boston for as the aforementioned research report in Health Affairs found, ER wait times are the worst in the Northeast and worse yet in urban areas.