MinuteClinics are springing up in CVS retail stores at the rate of 150 a year across the country. The first one on the Peninsula opened in Hampton in mid-May and will be followed by additional locations in Newport News and Williamsburg within the month.
"They've taken off in popularity," said Nancy Gagliano, MD, chief medical officer.
The concept is straightforward: To provide easy access to basic medical care at convenient hours.
The clinic at the Mercury Boulevard location is set in the back of the store with a small open waiting area and a single room; a second room will be opened when demand merits. Like other clinics, it is staffed by a nurse practitioner, who can diagnose, treat and prescribe medications for a number of minor illnesses —- including strep throat, mono, flu, and ear, bladder and sinus infections — administer vaccinations, and conduct sports and camp physicals.
Nurse practitioners must complete a two-year program beyond training as a registered nurse, according to Hampton University graduate Sade Lane, who works at the Hampton location. A collaborating physician is available by phone and reviews 10 percent of the charts and conducts monthly educational sessions.
In 2006, when CVS purchased MinuteClinics, they were the first retail providers to gain certification from the Joint Commission, which has oversight over hospital and all major health providers, according to the company website.
The clinics differ from urgent care centers in that they are not equipped with X-ray machines and staff does not conduct any invasive exams, mend broken bones or apply stitches. They can conduct some "point of care" tests, such as cholesterol screening, rapid strep tests, and blood glucose levels for diabetics.
"We're available to see anyone 18 months and older," said Macy Roach, a nurse practitioner who helped to open the Virginia Beach clinic in April before joining the Hampton store. They can also offer injection training to patients who need it.
Fully half of patients at Minute Clinics across the country don't have a primary care physician, according to Gagliano. She attributes it to a transient population, young "invincibles," and a physician shortage. In those instances, the clinic gives patients a list of local primary care providers who are accepting new patients; for those who do have a physician, with their permission, the record of their visit is forwarded to their doctor.
"We keep everyone in the loop. Some are repeat customers," said Roach, who has referred patients to primary care when they needed more intense lab monitoring or when clinical guidelines called for it. In the past two months, the most common patient complaints have related to allergies, sinusitis and pollen counts, she added.
Across the country, 50 percent of patients take advantage of weekend and evening hours. "Providing access is very beneficial to them and the community. They often say they would otherwise go to the ER (emergency room)," said Gagliano, herself a former primary care physician.
The clinics can also peg early signs of disease, such as high blood pressure, and offer ongoing monitoring. In Northern Virginia, where MinuteClinics were established in 2006, they are affiliated with Inova Health System and their electronic medical records are integrated so providers can write directly into the patients' charts, she said.
Payment is primarily through insurance, though about 15 percent of patients pay in cash. The cost of services is displayed on the website and on an electronic message board at each site.
Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.
• 2315 W. Mercury Blvd., Hampton, is now open.
• In June, clinics will open at 13000 Warwick Blvd, Newport News and 1600 Richmond Road, Williamsburg.
• Clinic hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Clinics close for lunch, approximately 2 to 3 p.m. weekdays; 1 to 1:30 p.m. weekends.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun