Where can you find the accessible, affordable, quality healthcare that the Affordable Care Act promises to provide? One of the best places, and one you may have overlooked, is a local retail-based convenient care clinic. There are over 1,600 clinics in 39 states today. Their growth is expected to accelerate as consumers who are newly insured under the law confront an increasing shortage of primary care physicians.
The growth of these convenient care clinics is also promoted by an ongoing shift in the way providers are paid. Reimbursement is moving from fee-for-service to payments based on value. The success of the new approach will depend in part on patients' ability to find high-quality, low-cost care, the kind that convenient care clinics are uniquely positioned to provide.
As part of the growth trend, an increasing number of large healthcare systems are partnering with convenient care clinics, and in some cases opening their own clinics. This allows them to deliver the most cost-effective care and to help find a regular primary care provider for the roughly 40 percent of convenient care patients who say they don't have one.
Many clinics are expanding their service offerings to include chronic disease care and wellness programs, such as smoking cessation. They are also using technology, such as telehealth, to reach a broader set of patients. These are logical extensions of the clinics’ commitment to the triple aim of providing care that is high quality, easily accessible, and affordable and to the clinic’s mission of filling gaps in patient care.
The clinics also play a crucial role in helping to build the healthcare workforce by expanding opportunities for nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Many convenient care clinics also offer opportunities for clinical training for students in these fields through preceptorship and residency programs. These clinicians will be essential to our health care system in the coming years.
As health reform brings health insurance to an increasing number of Americans, convenient care clinics will be crucial in helping them to use that coverage to receive the accessible, affordable, and high quality care that they need.