A Short Primer on Advantages For Patients and Providers
Health care clinics are not new, but they continue to be at the forefront of health care in Massachusetts. Clinics are for-profit or non-profit entities that are licensed by the Department of Public Health to provide ambulatory medical care. Today, there are hundreds of provider entities licensed as “clinics” of various formats in the Commonwealth performing services ranging from urgent care to imaging, ambulatory surgery, and specialized health care services. Major corporations, such as large provider networks, have jumped onto this trend by seizing the opportunity to open licensed clinics to meet excess patient demand for medical services normally provided in traditional physician office settings or hospital departments. Convenience store pharmacies have also entered the clinic market with “limited service” clinics on their premises. In particular, the proliferation of “retail” or “walk-in” outpatient clinics over the last ten years (with more on the way), which offer urgent care as well as imaging, has important implications in addressing some of the most pressing issues in health care delivery, especially patient access. These clinics present important medical care benefits for patients and market opportunities for providers through a modern health care delivery model. The following is a summary of key advantages of clinic licensure for patients and providers alike, particularly in the urgent care space.
- Comfort in knowing that the clinic must meet licensure standards of the Department of Public Health to ensure quality and safety.
- “Walk-in” medical care – appointments are typically unnecessary.
- Access to a wide array of urgent care treatment of non-emergency medical conditions and injuries, such as colds, flu, congestion, allergies, infection, headaches, nausea, fever, sore throats, indigestion, food poisoning, skin conditions, scrapes and cuts, bruises, bites, burns, sprains, body and joint aches and pains, etc.
- Basic First Aid wound care and evaluation, including splints and minor stitches.
- Preventative care through flu shots, vaccinations, and physical examinations.
- Diagnostic services through lab testing, pregnancy testing, drug testing, EKGs, X-rays, and advanced radiology.
- Lower-cost alternative to emergency rooms.
- Shorter wait times than emergency rooms.
- Open longer hours than many physician offices; allows patients the convenience of receiving medical evaluation and treatment when their primary care physicians are unavailable or off-hours without the hassle of going to a hospital.
- Operated in all geographic settings, from urban cities to rural towns, subject to state physical plant licensure requirements.
- Promotes health care access and continuity of care, as patients have more outlets besides physician offices and hospital departments to pursue treatment and/or follow-up evaluations, imaging scans etc.
- Many are affiliated with trusted provider networks and commercial pharmacies.
- Can offer telemedicine services to augment the number of providers available, especially for patients presenting with low-acuity needs.
- Allows providers to reach the patient population by advertising and identifying their services as “clinics” in their promotional and online materials.
- Gives providers the opportunity to generate revenue by meeting untapped patient demand with longer and more convenient business hours – the health care “on demand” or “by convenience” patient.
- Enables corporate entities to enter the health care market without violating corporate-practice-of-medicine rules by obtaining licensee status.
- Permits providers to offer a dynamic range of medical service lines typically not offered by physician practices or outside of hospital settings, such as ambulatory surgery and advanced imaging.
- Help to reduce congestion in hospital emergency rooms, as patients can visit clinic locations to obtain non-emergent medical care.
- For health care networks, clinics can serve as a conduit for bringing patients into their networks for other health care relationships in the future, such as primary care, specialist care, and hospital or other institutional care by giving patients exposure to the brand’s service offerings and establishing patient loyalty.
The Department of Public Health is currently in the process of updating its clinic licensure regulations. To learn more or if you are interested in establishing a licensed clinic in Massachusetts, please contact Donoghue Barrett & Singal, P.C.
This primer was prepared by Andrew Ferrer
Andrew is an attorney in Donoghue Barrett & Singal’s Corporate and Health Care departments providing general business and corporate legal services to clients. He regularly advises and assists clients in obtaining licensure of hospital and clinic sites and medical services. You can find him on LinkedIn.