Regular IB readers may recall our early piece on "minute clinics," and how impressed we were with the concept. The idea is to move away from traditional (and expensive) delivery models for routine care, and toward more economical, cost-effective ones. Interestingly, the latest breakthrough in this practice comes to us from, of all places, the Bay State:
"Yesterday, the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved a controversial plan to allow pharmacies and other retailers as well as nonprofits to operate medical clinics for certain limited ailments...Now, for the first time in the state’s history, retailers may operate in-store clinics where licensed medical professionals may diagnose, and then treat, bronchitis, pink eye and sinus infections."
It's not clear why such delivery systems would be "controversial," except to those who have a vested interest in the older model. But if those entrenched interests were paying attention, they'd know that:
"In other parts of the country, in-store clinics are a fast-growing business. Since 2000, MinuteClinic has opened 465 clinics in 24 states."
And that's just one "brand." There are others, and the demand is apparently (and unsurprisingly) growing.
What's also interesting to me is that these kinds of service providers dovetail nicely with the burgeoning supply of "mini-med" insurance plans. And that makes sense: if one's health plan reimburses office or clinic visits at, say, $60, then one's out of pocket for such is (at worst) minimal. Are we seeing a natural growth pattern here, one which would anticipate (and perhaps mitigate the need for) gummint-mandated schemes?
Of course, there are no "minute hospitals" (yet?), but the basic idea seems promising.
[H/T: Coyote Blog]
ADDENDUM: I'm kinda disappointed that I missed this application myself, but one of the commenter's on Coyote's post points out that this might be a good use for HSA funds, as well. Depending on a given service's cost, a minute-clinic visit may actually be less expensive than even an in-network provider. And if there is no in-network provider nearby, then it may be an even better deal (versus an out-of-network "traditional model" provider).