Retail Clinics Should Be Used as Backup to Primary Care Physician, ACP Says

Patients are embracing and exploring alternatives to the traditional office practice, and the expansion of retail health clinics is a big part of that. However, the American College of Physicians said these clinics are best used as a backup alternative to a primary care physician.

Patients are embracing and exploring alternatives to the traditional office practice, and the expansion of retail health clinics is a big part of that. However, the American College of Physicians (ACP) said these clinics are best used as a backup alternative to a primary care physician.

A new position paper from ACP offers recommendations and provides guidance to physicians and their patients in understanding the role retail health clinics should have in providing quick, convenient care.

“A balance must be struck between the convenience and easy access retail clinics provide with the importance of establishing relationships between patients and physicians, particularly for patients who have complex medical histories and/or multiple medical problems,” Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, president of ACP, said in a statement.

ACP offers 6 recommendations and positions:

  1. Retail health clinics should serve as an episodic alternative to care from an established primary care practice for relatively health patients without complex medical histories.
  2. Retail health clinics should have a well-defined and limited scope of clinical services that should be disclosed to the patient prior to or at the visit.
  3. Retail clinics should use standardized medical protocols based on evidence-based practice guidelines.
  4. Retail health clinics should have a structured referral system to primary care settings and encourage patients to establish a long-term relationship with a primary care physician.
  5. ACP believes it is primarily the responsibility of the retail health clinic to promptly communicate information about a retail health clinic visit to the patient’s primary care physician.
  6. ACP believes insufficient data exist concerning the provision of chronic disease management in the retail health clinic and recommends against chronic and complex disease management in these settings.

“The positions put forward by ACP highlight a meaningful approach that will have positive effects for both patients and physicians,” Dr Riley said. “The health care system will, then, realize the full potential of primary care physicians working collaboratively with retail health clinics.”