Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Retail Health Care?

The San Francisco Chronicle has a story today about the increasing presence of urgent care facilities in shopping malls and other retail areas.

I've seen a health clinic at Brookfield Square Mall, but I'm not sure about the other malls in the Milwaukee area or around Wisconsin.

I have mixed feelings about these facilities.

On the one hand, cash-paying health care services are a big part of the reality that comes from people losing their health insurance, which is happening on an increasing rate across the country.

On the other hand, these places aren't nearly as comprehensive as a traditional health clinic. It would be devastating for them to be viewed as an equal replacement for our traditional primary care health facilities, particularly since these retail health outlets largely rely on high turnover to make a profit off what are indeed cheaper rates for services. Haste isn't exactly a virtue in health care.

One aspect of these retail health centers that should be celebrated is their use of nurse practitioners to perform primary care functions. In many areas, particularly rural, this has already happened on a broader scale; but, for the most part, the female-dominated field of nurse practitioners still faces unwarranted biases from some in the medical community and the public at large.

If we're serious about getting health care costs under control in Wisconsin and the US, we need to start looking into turning over primary care duties to nurse practitioners who often don't charge the same high rates as physicians, but who most definitely have the expertise and skills required in the primary care setting.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jay Bullock said...

If we're serious about getting health care costs under control in Wisconsin and the US, we need to start looking into turning over primary care duties to nurse practitioners who often don't charge the same high rates as physicians [. . .]

. . . which, of course, continues to reinforce the notion that women-dominated medical specialties are not worth paying as much for. The worst-paid physicians are pediatricians and OB-GYNs.

Nurse Practitioners are cool, and serve an important role, but we need to be careful about thinking of women as low-cost alternatives to men.

February 21, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Good point, Jay.

I certainly wasn't thinking of nurse practitioners solely for their lower cost--I think they also provide, for the most part, better primary care than many traditional physicians b/c of nursing's emphasis on preventative care and holistic health assessments. Many docs are moving closer to this, but there is still an emphasis in most medical schools on "treating the patient" while nursing schools tend to focus more on well-rounded care along with treatment.

February 21, 2006  

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