There's a new health trend coming to Lawrence, and I'm not talking about the popular vacuum/dust/clean-the-toilets workout that I've begun recently. (What? That's not a trend? My wife promised me she saw it on Dr. Oz.)
The CVS Pharmacy at 23rd and Iowa streets has just completed a $130,000 renovation to add a MinuteClinic to the store's operations. If you are not familiar with the concept, MinuteClinics are part of the emerging trend of retail health clinics, where patients can walk in and see a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant without an appointment.
The concept certainly isn't new. Walgreens has its own version of a walk-in clinic at its Sixth and Kasold store, and there are Lawrence businesses such as First Med and PromptCare that have similar, albeit larger, concepts of the walk-in clinic.
But I thought this one was worth mentioning because there are several people in the health world making predictions that these clinics will become all the rage once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.
The corporate research firm Accenture is predicting that the number of U.S. retail health clinics will double over the next three years to just under 3,000 total. The retail health clinics were a big trend from 2003 to 2008, but then their growth just stalled. Now, health care experts predict that the walk-in clinics will be a key "release valve" for the health care system as people who currently are uninsured gain insurance and start using the health care system with greater frequency.
CVS and Walgreens are the two largest players nationally in the walk-in clinic business, but Target also has some significant growth plans for walk-in clinics, according to the information I've read.
I'm not sure how local health care providers are viewing the situation, but once upon a time, the clinics were seen as a threat to traditional doctors' offices. But Accenture officials say their research now finds most primary care physicians and hospitals view the clinics as a key component of handling the rush that is expected with Obamacare. There are still some with concerns, especially on the quality front. This report highlights how some physicians are concerned that a proliferation of walk-in clinics will create a two-tiered health care system, where people with money will see doctors and people without as much money will see nurse practitioners. Plus, there have been some concerns raised that the clinics that are based inside pharmacies will have too great of an incentive to over-prescribe medication. It is not clear, though, that the data backs up that concern.
As for the new CVS clinic, information from the company says it will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. The clinic uses nurse practitioners to provide treatment, and it takes cases related to common family illnesses such as colds, the flu, ear aches, sinus infections, minor wounds, sprains and other such issues. Most forms of health insurance are accepted, and the cost for most treatments start at $79, according to the company.
In other news and notes from around town:
• People have been asking me what is going on with the former El Mezcal Mexican restaurant location in the shopping center at Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. Well, I've gotten word from the leasing agent for the center that another Mexican restaurant is set to go into the space. Tres Mexicanos plans to open a second Lawrence location. The new restaurant will be in addition to its current one in the shopping center at 23rd and Harper streets. I hope to get more information and pass it along.
• The hotel market has been an active one in Lawrence recently, and perhaps there is another change on the horizon. It appears that the former Ramada Inn property at 2222 W. Sixth St., or basically Sixth and Iowa streets, is up for sale. The commercial real estate service LoopNet sends me a list of the 10 most popular commercial real estate listings in the state, and the 110-room hotel/restaurant property checked in at No. 4 this week. It is a highly-visible piece of property in town, so it may be one worth watching.
• Area residents have one less place to take out their frustrations and get a workout all at once. Punch Boxing + Fitness has closed its Lawrence location in the shopping center at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. I checked out the location, and it is empty, with no signs about what the future holds for the space. According to its Web site, there is still a Punch Boxing + Fitness location in Shawnee. If I get any word from the owners about the Lawrence location and existing memberships, I'll pass it along.
As for people looking for a new high-intensity workout, I have heard of this new trendy one . . . I can loan you a toilet brush.