Already under fire from organized medicine, the fast-growing retail health clinics in community pharmacies are now receiving some unwanted scrutiny by state regulators.
Nationally, officials at the Convenient Care Association estimate that there are some 500 in-store clinics now in operation, and that 200 more will open by the end of this year. By 2009, the group predicts that the number will reach 3000, with chains such as Wal-Mart, Target, and CVS leading the charge.
Physician groups have raised concerns about the potential conflicts of interest posed by clinics in drugstores, and state regulators are now beginning to focus on the issue. In Michigan, for example, complaints from local physicians have prompted the state's Department of Community Health to begin hammering out new statewide regulations for the dozens of in-store retail health clinics that have sprung up during the past 2 years.
Those new rules, which are scheduled to be issued by the end of this year, are expected to establish a limit on the scope of illnesses that can be treated by retail clinics. They also will create a system of patient referral to local physicians.
The Michigan regulations may require disclosure of the qualifications of the nurse practitioners or physician assistants at retail clinics. Additionally, the state medical society wants operators of in-store clinics to maintain electronic records and to communicate with patients' primary physicians after visits.