Along with buying such items as socks, corn chips and shampoo, consumers can now get a quick medical diagnosis from a nurse practitioner or physician assistant at dozens of retail stores across the country. Drugstores such as Bartell, Eckerd, Osco and Rite Aid as well as chains such as Cub Foods and Target are installing in-store clinics with specialist companies like MinuteClinic, Minneapolis, and Take Care Health Systems, Conshohocken, Pa.
The growth of such clinics prompted the American Academy of Family Physicians, which has worked with MinuteClinic and Take Care, to develop a list of necessary attributes for such clinics. The AAFP says in-store clinics should have:
Last year, the AAFP decided against fighting the growth of such clinics. In a memo, AAFP Board Chair Mary Frank, M.D., stated that "rather than expending energy in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to 'stop' the retail clinic model," the goal should be to ensure that the clinics provide accurate information and operate under desired AAFP guidelines.
There are indications of strong support for such clinics. In a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll in October 2005, 83% of respondents agreed that retail clinics could provide basic medical services on weekends or evenings, when doctors' offices are typically closed.
That same month, the AAFP passed a resolution at its scientific assembly calling for an investigation into the growth of retail health clinics; identification of the essential elements that the clinics should include; and leadership for helping clinics meet community needs. A working group came up with the list of attributes, which was distributed to AAFP members Dec. 21, 2005, and posted on the AAFP Web site, aafp.org, in January.