Retail Health Clinics Moving in on Doctors' Territory

Retail clinics in the backs of pharmacies and other stores are moving in on the diganostic territory traditionally held by MD's.

The trend has escalated since CVS Corp., the country's largest drugstore chain, bought MinuteClinic, the Minneapolis-based originator of quick clinics.

According to "Retail clinics: A quick remedy? Quick clinics are changing medicine and prompting debate," in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (July 15, 2006):

"By emphasizing retail principles of price, convenience and service, the clinics are shaking up traditional health care -- from forcing doctors to keep longer and occasional weekend hours to helping spur more transparency in pricing."

The articles cites the case of a mother who took her son to the back of CVS for a diagnosis from a physician assistant of swimmer's ear, at a great cost savings over the traditional doctor's visit.

This goes to the heart of the debate over scope of practice--what physician assistants and other 'extender' providers can do as opposed to physicians, what constitutes the 'practice medicine,' and where services can lawfully be offered.

Not coincidentally, these are also some of the same issues confronting medical spas as they face legislation or medical board regulation tightening up requirements on physician "supervision" of extender providers for dermatological procedures and consultations.