Viewpoint: It's about time for more urgent care options in Boston

An Op-Ed published by The Boston Globe suggests traditional healthcare institutions are blocking out urgent-care and retail clinics because they don't like the competition.

Despite that walk-in, urgent care and retail clinics are growing in popularity across the country — approximately 3,000 exist nationwide and 100 exist in Massachusetts — the city of Boston currently does not have a single walk-in clinic, according to author Jim Stergios, executive director of Boston-based think tank Pioneer Institute.

Why is Boston a "black hole" for walk-in clinics?

"Simply put, many traditional institutions and players don't want competition — even if it is good for patients," Mr. Stergios wrote.

Research shows the clinics provide similar levels of quality compared to physician's offices or emergency rooms, and they can actually benefit hospitals that are dealing with increased traffic in their ERs, he wrote. Boston in particular could benefit form them — it's residents wait an average of 66 days to get an appointment with a family physician and 45.4 days on average to get any physician appointment, according to Mr. Stergios.

Yet Boston hospitals and healthcare providers have been stiff arming urgent care centers because they could increase fragmentation, are not held to the same standards as larger providers and because many are not staffed by physicians, he wrote. However, the point of these clinics is not to compete with ERs, physicians or hospitals. Rather, they are meant to provide care for minor illnesses or injuries.

Fortunately, the city has potentially approved an application to open one for-profit clinic in West Roxbury, Mr. Stergios wrote. "They are long overdue in Boston," he said.

Read the full article here.


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