Medical Society Cheers Review Process for Retail-based Clinics

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) praised the recent decision by the Mass. Department of Public Health to institute a structured review process for the proposed establishment of limited health clinics.

“We deeply appreciate that the Department of Public Health (DPH) listened closely to our concerns and agree that the proposal merits much closer examination,” said Dr. Bruce S. Auerbach, president-elect of the MMS.

“We welcome innovations in health care delivery,” he added. “But innovations should be publicly vetted so they protect the public’s safety, and support the delivery of high-quality care. Such limited clinics should also maintain a robust communication pipeline with the rest of the health care system, and support the continuity of care that all patients deserve and expect.”

Earlier this year, MinuteClinic asked the DPH for permission to open the first of several limited health clinics in a CVS store in Weymouth. Its request sought waivers of several regulations that it said were needed to make the clinics economically viable.

In June, the MMS, the Mass. Academy of Family Physicians, the Mass. Hospital Association, the Mass. Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Mass. League of Community Health Centers asked the DPH to establish a public hearing process to consider MinuteClinic’s request, saying the request represented a significant change in state health policy.

The groups also expressed concerns about infection-control issues, patient safety monitoring, the proposed method for supervising nurse practitioners practicing in this environment, the use of integrated medical records systems, the mix of patients who will be served, credentialing reviews, and building code issues.

JudyAnn Bigby, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said that, “rather than considering applications that require numerous waivers, we believe we should consider an alternative set of regulations that, if approved, will make the application process for operating limited-service medical clinics transparent to any entity that feels they have a role in their community.”

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