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Today’s panels at the CSG/ERC annual meeting explored retail clinics – opportunities and concerns – and primary care shortages. The clinic panel included Kim Rhodes from Take Care Clinics (owned by Walgreens) and Ken Ferrucci from the CT medical society. There are about 1000 retail clinics in the US, providing affordable access, including evenings and weekends, to basic services for conditions such as immunizations, colds, and ear infections. Ninety percent of patients who have used clinics are satisfied with the quality of care they received. Take Care Clinics have strong quality standards and work to connect patients to appropriate community services. Demand for clinic services is strong and growing, especially for people who cannot reach their doctor’s office during business hours and don’t need an emergency room. Ken emphasized that the medical society is not advocating to prohibit the clinics, but to ensure that they are regulated to protect patient safety. Other concerns include providing health care in stores that sell tobacco, offering lower copays to patients for visiting a clinic over a physician’s office, and the effect of clinics on the rest of the health care market.
The second panel focused on the shortage of primary care services and included Sen. Lisa Marrache (ME), Dr. Mario Motta, President-Elect of the MA Medical Society, and Dr David Stevens, of the National Association of Community Health Centers. Sen. Marrache, who is also a practicing primary care physician, created a legislative Commission to Study Primary Care Medical Practice. The Commission found that primary care physicians are leaving practice in record numbers primarily due to low reimbursement rates. The Commission recommended increasing and equalizing Medicaid rates, streamlining prescribing processes, investments in health information technology, and creating a medical home pilot project. Dr. Motta described the medical society’s recent study that found serious and growing physician workforce shortages, particularly in primary care fields. Half of MA physicians reported that they would not choose to practice medicine again as their profession. Waiting times for primary care appointments are increasing in MA which has serious implications for the success of MA’s health care reforms to cover all state residents. Insurance coverage is only part of the answer, being able to find a provider is just as important. Dr. Stevens focused on the critical role of community health centers in filling primary care gaps for underserved patients. He also highlighted the “medical home” model of care as a potential solution. In a medical home, patients have one place to access and coordinate comprehensive care in a culturally competent, compassionate setting. The medical home uses a team of providers including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and others to deliver appropriate, patient-centered care.
CT’s Governor Rell and Senator Harp attended both panels and actively participated in the discussions.
Ellen Andrews