What We're Reading: Retail Clinics Do Not Alleviate Emergency Department Burden

What we’re reading, November 15, 2016: retail health clinics are not associated with decreased emergency department visits; House Speaker Paul Ryan will push for Medicare reform along with repeal of the Affordable Care Act; screening of donated blood finds just a fraction of units are contaminated with the Zika virus.

The increasing popularity of retail health clinics has not lowered the amount of emergency department (ED) visits for low-acuity conditions, according to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The authors report that the major effect of retail clinics is “new use,” when people who would not otherwise have sought treatment visit these convenient retail settings for minor issues. People can generally discern whether they are having a true medical emergency and pick the most appropriate care setting, meaning that retail clinics do not directly compete with EDs.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is preparing for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, and he has recently suggested that the replacement would include Medicare reforms. In a Fox News interview, he blamed the ACA for Medicare’s financial troubles, which he said would be addressed by the Republican plan to replace the healthcare law. Trump’s transition website states his administration would “modernize Medicare,” but does not include specifics.

Many American blood banks have been testing donated blood for the Zika virus at a cost of $6 to $10 per unit, even though they are not yet legally required to. They report that screenings have found only 40 positive results out of around 800,000 blood donations tested over the last 6 months. In contrast, about 1% of blood donors in Puerto Rico were infected with Zika in July.