Walk-In Clinics Can Bring Affordable Health Care to the Uninsured

In the current environment, regular checkups for chronic conditions can be inconvenient and expensive. But now patients will be able to enter familiar local retailers for quick and inexpensive cholesterol tests and have the results sent to a primary-care physician within minutes.

Doctors can then review results and, when necessary, recommend changes to treatment plans on a consistent basis.

This convenience enables systematic analysis of a patient's condition with the goal of actually improving quality of life -- or in this case -- actually lowering that patient's cholesterol.

As the U.S. population grows past the 300 million mark and the baby boomers continue to age, clinics will alleviate the growing shortage of primary-care physicians.

Nurse practitioners and physician's assistants, working with physician oversight in these clinics, can manage a broad range of illnesses thereby extending the reach of physicians and providing high-quality care to a greater number of people.

Information technology will be widely used in these settings to track and manage patient records.

As patients and physicians alike see the value of improved access to medical information, pressure will mount for all sectors of health care to more effectively use new IT to improve patient care.

More importantly, as patients experience easier and more efficient ways to access their information, they will demand technologies that force all the parts of the system to "talk" to each other.

Dr. Alan Lotvin is a cardiologist, and president and CEO of Care Clinic, Inc. a health-care clinic operator. Beginning in November 2006, Care Clinic, Inc. will open walk-in clinics in Indiana, Michigan and Nevada, providing basic health-care services to local community residents.

Lastly, clinic operators recognize from the start that they are in a service business and that success is dependent on making sure that every patient who walks into a clinic has as an outstanding experience.

The care has to be the highest quality, the setting has to be inviting, the process has to be simple, and they need to walk out feeling well cared for.

If we can excel in all these areas, looking back a decade from now we may see that $1.9 trillion as money well spent.

Many Americans believe in the promise of a better health-care system in this country.

If we want to lower health-care costs, improve quality of treatment, shorten emergency-room wait times, and make general health care available to the millions who currently can't afford it, we must take advantage of the opportunity these clinics and other innovative programs can provide.

Dr. Alan Lotvin is a cardiologist, and president and CEO of Care Clinic, Inc. a health-care clinic operator. Beginning in November 2006, Care Clinic, Inc. will open walk-in clinics in Indiana, Michigan and Nevada, providing basic health-care services to local community residents.

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