Sometimes Medical Care Requires More Than a Minute

This article originally appeared here.
A primary care physician sees the peril of pharmacy-owned clinics.
A primary care physician sees the peril of pharmacy-owned clinics.

Frankly, I know how easy it is to go to the Minute Clinic. I understand the appeal of not needing an appointment, being able to shop while you wait and having the prescription ready to pick up by the end of your appointment. 

Who doesn't like convenience and a friendly smile to boot?

I myself like the customer service offered at CVS, Target, or the local pharmacy. I also know that the doctor's office can be a pain. 

I, too, loathe the annoying phone tree that leads to a tired nurse or secretary, often followed by hours of waiting to have the physician call you back and tell you to do what you already knew to do — rest and drink fluids.

Seductive though they are, however, these clinics do not really have your best interests at heart. Yes, they can manage typical medical problems that usually don't require much intervention in the first place, such as respiratory infections, minor rashes and the like. They can even treat your strep throat or urinary tract infection.

They can treat these types of ailments — until something goes wrong. At midnight, when your temperature soars and you are unable to swallow because of tonsillar swelling, there will be no one at Target to prescribe you steroids. Or when your simple bladder infection turns into pyelonephritis, there will be no medical expert on hand to step in and guide the way. You will have to fall back on calling me, the beleaguered primary care physician.

I, however, am a vanishing breed. I saw the writing on the wall years ago and became a hospitalist, or concierge doctor, or departed from clinical medicine altogether.

Not only that, those few of us who are left certainly won't want to clean up the mess left by a pharmacy clinic at some ungodly hour when we would rather be sleeping. You didn't come to me in the first place. Why should I now be responsible when taking care of you has suddenly become more serious, urgent, and inconvenient?

Ah! Now you're getting it.

Minute clinics pick off the easy, high-margin care and then punt when push comes to shove. They have less interest in your well-being than what is in your wallet. Low-acuity, high-volume primary care can be very lucrative. Don't expect them to be there, however, when you really need them.

And don't expect me to be there, either. Because I'll be long gone, forced to abandon my life's work due to medicine's lack of convenience.

Looks like someone will be going to the emergency room. Good Luck!

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