We can’t have it both ways…

In Boston they fight the spread of the retail clinic (from The Boston Globe):

The mayor has argued that retail clinics providing episodic care will fracture the medical system, ultimately hurting patients.

But in St. Petersburg, Fla., traditional care providers are going retail (from St. Petersburg Times):

“A lot of hospitals are getting into more retail medicine” to boost their bottom line, said Donna St. Louis, vice president of outpatient services for BayCare.

So basically hospitals want to be able to operate in retail environments—and have no new competitors in that arena.

Hmm.  “Have your cake and eat it too?”

In Washington D.C., Senator Grassley is up to his old tricks (from the Health Blog):

Sen. Chuck Grassley took another swipe at lucrative tax breaks of nonprofit hospitals yesterday–-at a hearing that wasn’t even about hospitals.

But again, in Florida, this (from St. Petersburg Times):

Bayfront Medical Center operates Bayfront Rejuvenations at one of its convenient care walk-in clinics at 7000 Fourth St. N. And BayCare Health System, which runs several nonprofit hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, plans to open a medical spa at its St. Anthony’s Carillon Outpatient Center in late August.

Tell me how to go about defending the important nonprofit tax benefit hospitals receive when they are offering cosmetic procedures like Botox injections.  Can anyone rationalize how these medical spas are providing enough community benefit (i.e., free care) to make up for that tax free benefit?  I’m sure there are plenty of self-pay patients utilizing the services—but definitely not the traditional self-pay (i.e., no-pay) patients hospitals have become accustomed (averse?) to in recent years.

Here is an attempt:

“We do not have a medical spa. We have an aesthetic medical practice,” said Waldrep, medical director of the new practice and of Bayfront’s convenient care clinics.

OK, we’ll call it AMP for short.

Throw us a bone…

Here is another attempt:

As medical spas have multiplied, so have concerns about the quality of services they offer and the level of medical supervision present. The hospitals see themselves as a natural alternative. They hope people will automatically associate their names with higher-quality medicine.

OK, better.  But need we be reminded that traditional health care organizations have quality concerns of their own?

Finally, the real reason for the service expansion:

Just as primary care doctors have found spas a way to bolster their bottom line, medical spas are a way for hospitals to bring in dollars to balance out other services that communities need, but lose money for the hospital, such as trauma and indigent care.

Misplaced incentives make for mislaid business plans.  But building barriers around hospital fiefdoms isn’t the answer.  And dabbleing in borderline health care services isn’t either.

The answer comes from concentrated efforts to improve what we were created to do: care for patients who truly need our help.  Competition helps us get there.  Focusing on what we do best helps us do it.

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