SOURCE: National Business Group on Health

November 15, 2007 11:04 ET

National Business Group on Health Issues Position on Convenience Care Clinics

Group Supports Employer Use of Clinics for Selected, Non-Emergent Care

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - November 15, 2007) - Saying they meet an important, unfilled need for easily accessible health care services, the National Business Group on Health today issued a comprehensive position statement supporting employer use of retail medical clinics for selected, urgent, non-emergent medical problems. The National Business Group on Health is a non-profit association representing 288 large U.S. employers.

The Business Group's position statement comes at a time when the number of convenience care clinics is growing steadily while some medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, are raising questions about the quality of care being delivered at retail clinics.

"In the face of growing controversy surrounding retail health clinics, the Board's Physicians' Advisory Group conducted an extensive review of research reports and publications, and ultimately recommended a position supporting retail clinics," said Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health. "After reviewing the recommendation, the Business Group's Board of Directors, including their five physician members, concluded that retail clinics, in fact, meet an important, unfilled need for services that are easily accessible, open to everyone, lower in cost than emergency rooms, and available during hours that many physicians' offices are closed."

The number of convenience care clinics has been growing steadily and several employers have encouraged their workers to use these low cost, walk-in facilities which generally provide medical care for minor illnesses such as ear infections, sore throats, coughs and pink eye. The clinics, typically located in supermarkets, pharmacies and large, retail stores, are generally staffed by nurse practitioners and are open evenings and weekends as a convenience to working families.

"We don't see any reason to exclude retail medical clinics from employer provided health benefits coverage as long as standards are in place and there is appropriate physician back-up and supervision," said Darling. "Patients, employers and health plans can clearly benefit from the targeted focus, ease of access, convenience and greater affordability of these facilities."

In its support, the Business Group declared a need for standards that are appropriate for retail clinics. At a minimum, the Business Group says these standards should assure that the care conforms to accepted standards of practice and medical evidence and is delivered in a safe setting; that referrals are appropriate and information is transferred timely; that health information protections are appropriate, and that any conflicts of interest resulting from the retail setting or affiliation be avoided.

"We also feel strongly that employers and health plans should use the same due diligence process in selecting a retail clinic that they use in all other health benefit decisions. Many large employers already support retail clinics as a way to save time and reduce costs. And while these clinics are not substitutes for patient-centered primary care, urgent care in convenient locations clearly meets an important, unmet need for workers and their families," concluded Darling.

About the National Business Group on Health

The National Business Group on Health is the nation's only non-profit, membership organization of large employers devoted exclusively to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to their most important health care and related benefits issues. The Business Group identifies and shares best practices in health benefits, disability, health and productivity, related paid time off and work/life balance issues. Business Group members provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. For more information about the Business Group, visit www.businessgrouphealth.org.

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