Study: Retail clinics save nonemergency patients money
INDIANAPOLIS Allergy sufferers can save money and receive quality, convenient care by skipping the emergency room and instead visiting a retail-based or urgent-care clinic, according to a recent study.
The study conducted by HealthCore, WellPoint’s outcomes research subsidiary, found that patients can save anywhere from $50 to $400 in out-of-pocket costs per visit by skipping the ER and heading to a retail health- or urgent-care clinic when they are unable to see their primary care physician.
“When possible, we recommend that our members visit their primary care physicians for non-emergency treatment,” stated Dr. Manish Oza, WellPoint medical director and emergency room physician. “If that’s not an option, in cases where patients are looking for treatments related to allergies and colds — such as sinus infections, sore throats, ear infections and bronchitis — it just makes more economic sense to go to a retail health clinic or urgent-care clinic.”
In addition, the study found that few patients who received care at retail health clinics or urgent-care clinics needed follow-up care for their ailment, implying that they received the appropriate level of care, stated John Barron, HealthCore director for health-plan research.
The study of members in WellPoint’s affiliated health plans in 14 states found that nearly 1-in-5 ER visits (19.4%) were for non-emergencies, including conditions such as upper respiratory infections, sore throats or urinary tract infections. This is during a time when ER visits have increased 31% in 2005 compared with 1995, and ER waits to see a physician have increased from 38 minutes in 1997 to 56 minutes in 2005, according to federal government statistics provided by WellPoint.
Bronchitis, one of the more expensive conditions to treat, cost $646 to treat in the ER, compared with $97 for an urgent-care visit and $54 for a retail health-clinic visit, according to the study. Average costs for ER visits for all conditions studied ranged from $441 for the ER to $98 for urgent care and $52 for retail care. These costs represent total costs, including the portion paid by the health plan member.
The study showed that for every member treated at retail health clinics, about 15 others are treated in the ER for the same conditions.
The study also looked at overall costs to treat individual episodes over a two-week period for ailments associated with allergy, cold and flu, along with conjunctivitis and urinary tract infections. In this case, ER episodes cost an average $500, while urgent care cost $150 and retail health clinic cost $90.
Pharmacy owns medication adherence issue
WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Of all the cells in the big organism known as health care, pharmacy is the right one to own the issue of medication adherence, as National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson pledged it would when commenting on a study published in the journal Health Affairs.
(THE NEWS: NACDS hails journal article’s emphasis on pharmacy’s role in medication adherence. For the full story, click here)
A physician treats a patient and writes a prescription, while a nurse supplements the physician’s care, but the pharmacist has an ability to help monitor patients’ drug treatment after they return home from their appointments, and the pharmacist can make sure they take their drugs the way they’re supposed to, while also ensuring that the therapies physicians prescribe are appropriate.
As healthcare professionals, pharmacists can do this through collaboration with other providers and thus play a significant role in patient care. But as the authors of the study wrote, pharmacists are often underused, so it’s up to them and the organizations that represent them to ensure that patients, payers and other providers know the widening variety of roles they can fulfill.
Study: Metformin may be used to treat other diseases
CINCINNATI A diabetes drug widely available as a generic doesn’t work the same way experts have long thought it did, and that means it could find use in treating other diseases as well, researchers at the University of Cincinnati found.
Led by UC Metabolic Diseases Institute scientific director George Thomas, the researchers think the drug metformin could be used in patients with cancer, tuberous sclerosis and other conditions. The drug is used primarily to treat Type 2 diabetes and works by blocking production of sugar and increasing sensitivity to insulin.
Experts had long thought that the drug disabled the mammalian target of rapamycin, or mTOR complex by first deactivating tuberous sclerosis complex proteins through an enzyme called AMPK. But the UC team found that it disables mTOR using another enzyme, called RAG GTPase.
“We’ve poked a hole in dogma,” Thomas said. “Scientists can and should go back and ask about things they had crossed off their list.”