Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Fast-Food-ization of Health Care

INDIANAPOLIS STAR - It's health care, fast-food style. A flu shot goes for $30. Treating athlete's foot or an ear infection will run you $49 apiece. Treatments will take 15 minutes, with no appointment necessary. It's all inside a tiny clinic crammed into the corner of the CVS pharmacy at 96th Street and Allisonville Road, one of seven clinics set to open Monday at local CVS stores. The clinics, owned and operated by Minneapolis-based Minute Clinic, have no doctors on site but are staffed by nurse practitioners trained to diagnose and treat common ailments, from bronchitis to pink eye, and to provide basic services, such as vaccinations.

The private company, led by a former chief executive of fast-food chain Arby's, is on the leading edge of an emerging shift in U.S. health care that could push many routine medical tasks away from doctors' offices and emergency rooms to low-cost clinics open evenings and weekends. The idea is to give patients more convenience and lower costs for common medical procedures. Some doctors, however, worry that the clinics emphasize convenience over care. Indiana has become a key testing area for the concept, with at least a dozen clinics opened or planned in the coming months. They seem to be popping up like new eateries at a busy intersection.

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