According to a recent study, easing service restrictions for nurse practitioners (NPs) may lead to cost savings at retail health clinics. The study found that retail health clinic visits, in states that allow NPs to independently prescribe and practice, cost $34 less than in states with restrictions on NPs. Joanne Spetz is the study’s lead author and teaches at Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California in San Francisco.
$34 does not appear to be much, but the report estimates $472 million in cost savings could be reached by 2015 if NPs would be allowed to practice independently at retail health clinics. NPs often staff those retail clinics found in chain-pharmacies or “big box stores”. They often see patients for walk-in care or minor health problems such as infections and colds.
Each state varies on the ability for NPs to practice and prescribe independently, some with more restrictions than others. 2013 is expected to see more than 6,000 retail health clinics in the U.S. by the years’ end. Research suggests there may be a conflict of interest when retail clinics write prescriptions from within the chain-pharmacies, while others feel that visits to retail clinics disrupt the continuous relationship patients have with their primary care doctors.
Insurance claims from 2004 to 2007 were used in the study to compare costs between retail clinics in states that allowed NPs to practice independently versus states where they were supervised by a doctor. The study found visits to retail clinics were cheaper than traditional visits to the doctor. Average cost of treatment in the 2 weeks following a traditional doctor’s office visit was $704 including the initial visit and prescriptions.
States where NPs could not practice independently saw the average cost of care for a retail clinic visit at $543. States that allowed NPs freedom to practice saw $484 per visit. States where NPs could both practice without supervision and prescribe medication saw a slight shrink in cost savings. Those states averaged $509 per visit.
Chances of hospitalization after visits to a retail clinic were no different between states that allowed independently practicing NPs and those which did not. There was no evidence in the study to support better patient outcomes for those in states with more restrictions on NPs.
Today, patients are just as likely to seek a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant for primary care needs as they would a physician. States are increasingly giving the green light to allow more independence among advanced practice professionals. If you are a provider seeking career opportunities, contact a company that knows mid-level recruitment better than any other. Please call NP PA Recruiters at 214-351-3880 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.