by Sarah Sangosti
In a world that’s dominated by speed and convenience, it’s no wonder one-stop shopping has expanded to the medical field. Already operating in Maryland and Minnesota, MinuteClinic aims to become a national health care provider. The Denver metro area is a strong candidate for the clinic’s expansion, with at least four to 15 locations planned along the Front Range by the end of 2005, said Linda Hall Whitman, Ph.D, MinuteClinic founder and chief operating officer.
MinuteClinics have treated about 240,000 patients since its inception in 2000, and those customers have been 99 percent satisfied, Hall Whitman said. Privately held companies, private investors and venture firms are funding the MinuteClinic’s rapid expansion. She said at least 350 more clinics are expected in 20 metro areas by 2009. Hiring usual begins two to four months before a clinic opens.
The clinics are staffed by certified nurse practitioners and offer quick, convenient, high-quality health care in retail settings, such as big-box discount stores or leading grocery chains. Common family illnesses, such as strep throat, ear infections, stress or bronchitis, can be treated by NPs at MinuteClinics.
"MinuteClinics are part of the healthcare delivery continuum," Hall Whitman said. They are designed for busy people to drop into a convenient location with no appointment, get a common illness treated and be on their way, while perhaps shopping for dinner at the same location. This all takes place within 15 minutes and between 75 and 120 square feet of space. That’s all it takes, and it’s been proven.
Formerly known as QuickMedx, MinuteClinics work closely with the healthcare industry, Hall Whitman said, including insurance companies, primary care providers and physicians on call. Treatment is in-network with most major insurance companies, so many patients only make their co-payments. However, full prices are posted for patients without health insurance, and most visits start at only $44.
If patients have symptoms the clinic cannot treat, something without a rapid, specific treatment, MinuteClinic NPs refer patients to their primary care providers and work closely with them to provide patient information after a MinuteClinic visit.
According to the May/June issue of The American Nurse, the American Nurses Association publication, MinuteClinic NPs conduct careful examinations to determine treatments staff can treat, such as sinusitis or bronchitis, compared to pneumonia, which would be referred out to another provider. The NPs don’t go outside their scope of practice.
Additionally, each clinic has a physician on call during all hours of operation, Hall Whitman said.
The American Nurse noted NPs like the idea of walk-in MinuteClinics because of their flexible scheduling. Also, Hall Whitman said one NP is on staff at a time and takes care of the entire patient process, from arrival and check-in through diagnostics, prescription writing, reviewing educational materials and taking payment. Most retail locations are open seven days a week with convenient hours and are near pharmacies.
When the clinics first opened, some physicians worried MinuteClinic NPs would work beyond their capabilities, but the organization has proved instead to work well with PCPs by providing medical records and referrals to complement traditional visits. The clinic’s structured protocols are crucial to its success, The American Nurse noted. Additionally, a board of directors governs MinuteClinics.
Despite MinuteClinic’s strict guidelines, Hall Whitman said the staff must be very knowledgeable in the field and know how to identify and treat a variety of ailments. Each employee must have a bachelor’s degree in science, an RN and a two-year master of science in nursing degree to work at a MinuteClinic.
For more information on MinuteClinics, visit the company’s Web site at www.minuteclinic.com.