The American Academy of Family Physicians is taking a prominent role on an advisory board for Minneapolis-based MinuteClinic, a for-profit provider of healthcare in retail locations, but the AAFP denies that the involvement constitutes an endorsement of the company over its rivals.
"The American Academy of Family Physicians is involved in order to have an influence over the quality of care," said AAFP President Larry Fields. "The reason we accepted a seat is to ensure that quality will be there for people who use these things. ... If they go in a direction we aren't onboard with, we're not stuck with staying onboard with this."
MinuteClinic, which operates in nine states out of retail outlets such as CVS/Pharmacy stores, unveiled on May 2 an advisory panel that includes the AAFP's immediate past president, Michael Fleming, and a permanent AAFP "organization chair" that will be filled at first by Andrew Eisenberg, who currently serves on the AAFP's Commission on Practice Enhancement and is the former chairman of the Texas Medical Association Council on Public Health.
While the AAFP said it is not endorsing MinuteClinic, the clinic company said it has endorsed and will follow the list of "desired attributes" for retail clinic operations that the AAFP developed last year and released last December (Jan. 9, p. 32). These include: a well-defined and limited scope of clinical services; the use of evidence-based and quality-improvement-oriented services and treatment plans; codified systems for referring patients whose symptoms exceed the clinic's scope; and the use of electronic health records.
"We fully support them and endorse them, and will absolutely follow them," said MinuteClinic Chief Medical Officer James Woodburn regarding the AAFP principles. "We comply with them today, and we intend to comply with them in the future, and will work with them to expand them whenever that makes sense."
The company's National Clinical Quality Advisory Council will hold its first meeting May 16-17 in Minneapolis, Woodburn said. The council members will be paid a per-meeting honorarium, but he would not specify the amount, except to say it would be a "standard" honorarium rate.
Fields said that Eisenberg's honorarium will be paid to the AAFP and that the family physicians' organization will also pay his expenses for the meeting. "When we send somebody to something like this, we pay for it," he said.
Fleming, who lives in Shreveport, La., said his travel expenses will be covered by MinuteClinic, but said he did not know how much more he will be paid. Fleming said his involvement does not represent a personal endorsement or an endorsement from the organization he used to lead.