Last month, I attended and spoke at “Economic Disruption in Healthcare,” a symposium sponsored by Premera Blue Cross and the University of Washington Executive MBA program. About 250 business leaders and nationally recognized experts from throughout the country gathered to highlight disruptive trends in the health care industry today. I presented on Mayo Clinic’s efforts to define and measure value in health care, highlighting our work in telestroke and with Optum Labs.
One interesting presentation focused on a relatively new model of care, the retail clinic. Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., of Rand Corporation and Harvard Medical School, summarized the current research about retail clinics, a relatively new model of care that we at Mayo Clinic are using in our practice. Dr. Mehrotra reported that there are about 1,600 retail clinics throughout the country, and 5 percent of the U.S. public has been seen in one during the past year. About 90 percent of those people had one of nine diagnoses, most commonly upper respiratory infection or sore throat.
Although some physician organizations have expressed concern about the quality of care delivered at these clinics, Dr. Mehrotra presented research showing that retail clinic practitioners are following quality guidelines, and specifically, not over-prescribing antibiotics. He also said that many retail clinic patients have no primary care provider, and in essence, are “new customers” who report high satisfaction with their retail clinic experience. There are significant per-episode cost savings achieved with this model, although the impact on overall spending is unclear.
As we look to the future of health care, health care leaders must continue to design and test these new models of care to determine which are beneficial for patients and society – by increasing access, improving quality or lowering costs.
Editor's note: Ryan Uitti, M.D., is deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery