By Dan Abshear
Recently in the media, issues have been addressed regarding the specialty of primary care or family practice doctors and the shortage of them in the U.S. In summary, reasons for the shortage that exists are due to the specialty not being that profitable for a doctor compared with other specialties. As a consequence, the doctors view the specialty as not a desirable choice apparently quite often, although the specialty is greatly needed in the health care system and for the public health.
As a layperson, I view primary care as ultimately a specialist in nothing in particular, yet knowledgeable in a large variety of medical areas, which I believe, makes them very valuable to those patients seeking restoration of their health. Furthermore, there is a comfort level with those in this specialty compared with other specialties, one could speculate. So the shortage of primary care doctors is in fact disappointing. Perhaps most disappointing is the atrophy of the doctor-patient relationship unique with such doctors.
Yet one possible solution is what is known as retail care clinics, and their popularity was increasing not long ago for a variety of reasons.
First, I’ll offer a definition of a retail clinic: A retail clinic is usually located in a convenient location, such as a shopping area, and are smaller than most doctors’ offices in regards to geographical space. Usually, these clinics are staffed with a nurse practitioner that often have the ability and authority to provide the same quality care as a primary care physician, and do so with the same standards regarding accountability and autonomy. If you happen t o go to one for what may be considered a mild ailment, for example, for such conditions as allergies or the flu, you will notice a unique and pleasant paradigm towards your care at such a clinic:
They are quick. You are normally in and out of there within a half hour or so. This includes a thorough assessment and treatment regimen offered. Unlike typical doctor offices, these clinics are walk-in clinics, so there is no over-booking of patients.
You actually dialogue with your health care provider more so than you have experienced in a traditional doctor’s office due to other doctor offices often being incredibly busy from seeing too many patients during a typical day, as this is coerced and dictated by the health care system that employs these primary care doctors you may have seen in the past, which is typically the case.
The cost of going to such a retail clinic, which is sometimes termed an ‘urgent care light’ clinic, is usually about ¾ the cost of a typical primary care doctor visit.
You will likely notice no decline in the quality of care that you receive. In fact, likely you will experience greater quality on many different levels, both on a personal and clinical level.
Critics of such clinics include the American Medical Association and various medical societies, yet in my opinion, they are simply vexed because of the invasion of these clinics on their turf.
If it is discovered that you need greater medical care or attention than the retail clinic can provide for you during your visit at their urgent care light clinic, you will be referred to a location that can provide the care you are determined to need by the clinic’s heath care provider, who has likely relationships with the hospitals and others in the medical community for which they serve.
So most patients of these retail clinics are pleased with the care they receive from them, which is why they continue to grow in number under different names, as they have become franchises, yet the concept is new, so only time will tell regarding their popularity with various communities.
The clinics provide a response to the shortage of primary care doctors, and possibly are an answer to other problems that exist in the health care system in the U.S. The clinics are more authentic, and are therefore more beneficial for public health in many different ways.
“Follow where reason leads.” — Zeno of Citium
Disclosure: Author Mr. Shear was formerly an employee of the pharmaceutical industry (sales) and is currently seeking employment in the same industry.