The chart shows that MinuteClinic retail health clinics have a better track record in following evidence-based guidelines than the average primary care practice in the U.S. (This chart replaces one I posted yesterday that did not start the origin point at ‘0.’ Thanks to reader Jason Rothstein at J-blawg for pointing this out – my apologies if I mislead anyone).

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) pulled out this statistic in its Brief Analysis on Retail Clinics: Convenient and Affordable Care. The NCPA argues here that the solution to America’s lack of convenient, low-cost care is urgent care clinics.

NCPA says that, “freestanding urgent care centers…fill the gap between small, pharmacy-based clinics and hospital ERs” in that they offer more services and are staffed with physicians and allied health providers.

In filling that gap, NCPA believes that urgent care clinics can extend convenient, accessible cost-effective care to the uninsured, low-income, cash-paying patients.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: What the NCPA Brief doesn’t say is a key underlying point: MinuteClinic adopted the Continuity-of-Care Record (CCR), a health information standard that is used for the electronic capture and transfer of health data from one health information system to another — say, from an electronic health record to a personal health record (e.g., Microsoft HealthVault or Google Health).

This snapshot illustrates an important point in health care and technology: that legacy systems (paper-based or electronic) take a long, long time to displace. In the case of MinuteClinic, as a de novo health provider, they were able to leapfrog ahead of existing primary care providers by adopting the CCR and Internet-based communications from start-up. It’s much heavier lifting to migrate from storerooms of paper-based medical records to EMRs.

Nonetheless, the chart concentrates our minds on the fact that following evidence-based guidelines leads to better health care. Here’s another rationale for the adoption of HIT in physician practices. Consumers will be looking for physicians to adopt information technologies as they expect their banks, travel providers, and entertainment channels to provide. Responding to this demand will better position primary care practices vis-a-vis retail health in the best ways — in following guidelines, in communicating health information back to patients to empower and partner with them, and ultimately, providing quality care.