The Forbes Healthcare Summit 2013: The Walk-In Clinic Revolution And Obamacare

As the Affordable Care Act, private insurers and employers push less costly outpatient care, the health care industry is responding with a boom in retail clinics and urgent care centers.

At the second annual Forbes Healthcare Summit, a panel of physicians and entrepreneurs will share insights and strategies on October 10, 2013 at Lincoln Center in New York on how they hope to bring more convenient, better coordinated and lower cost medical care to more Americans.

The panel, “The Walk-In Clinic Revolution” will include Dr. Andrew Sussman, Senior Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Officer at CVS Caremark CVS +0.42% (CVS), the nation’s biggest player in retail medicine with plans to have 1,500 clinics operating by 2017.

Such clinics, generally staffed by nurse practitioners, treat routine maladies like pink eye or colds and have become a popular consumer choice by bringing bring quick, responsive medical treatment after-hours and on weekends that avoids a long wait in an emergency room or, in some cases, a doctor’s office.

Partly in response to the success of the retailers as well as consumer demand for more convenient and lower cost options, the walk-in revolution lately has included a surge in urgent care centers.

Urgent care, also known as immediate care, is similar to retail health clinics operated by CVS and rival retailers Walgreen WAG -0.3% (WAG), Wal-Mart Stores WMT -0.49% (WMT) and grocery store chains like Kroger KR +1.17% (KR) in that they are open in the evening and on weekends to treat routine maladies, but also offer a board-certified physician and additional services such as on-site X-rays for broken bones.

Panelist Traver Hutchins, Chief Executive officer of ASAP Urgent Care will discuss the growth of this market and why it’s a promising business opportunity and fellow panelist Dr. Richard Rothman, Founder of Rothman Institute and James Edward Professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia will talk about his group’s effort to bring more specialized urgent care to consumers who want and need orthopedic treatment closer to their homes.

Joining the panel to offer organized medicine’s perspective on these upstart outpatient care providers will be Dr. Robert Wah, President-Elect of the American Medical Association and Global Chief Medical Officer, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC).

The AMA, an early critic of retail health clinics a decade ago, in more recent years has worked with retailers, leading the national doctor group to adopt policy on retail clinics to ensure higher quality service while alleviating physician concerns.

Retail health clinics and urgent care centers are joining family physicians, internists and pediatricians on the front lines of primary care medicine in the U.S. What started as a way to give more convenient access and lower costs for basic medical needs like colds, coughs has suddenly become part of the front-line of primary care medicine.

But the growth has not – and likely will not – be without controversy. Dr. Wah will explain some physician concerns and how the AMA has worked to improve quality by urging clinics to “use standardized medical protocols derived from evidence-based practice guidelines to ensure patient safety and quality of care,” as one of several AMA guidelines says.

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