September 3rd, 2014
Retail health care is a relatively new development in American health care. It is true that much of the dispensing of medications has historically occurred through retail pharmacies, which sold a variety of other goods and services, but somehow that was not seen as the provision of health care. Health care institutions, including doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics, were the places that people went to be diagnosed and treated. And those institutions did little other than health care; they did not, and still do not today, offer any products other than provision of care, including testing and treatment. As such, these institutions demonstrated high integrity, defined as a state of being whole, and synonymous with cohesion and unity of purpose.
Now retail pharmacies, mass merchandisers and grocery stores are adding “health care” as another consumer good to be purchased on a mass scale. Retail health care is in some cases, extending what the pharmacist does in the retail pharmacy: providing more advice about a variety of health care issues, giving vaccines, and working more closely with doctors’ offices. In other cases, it is the opening of small clinic practices, often staffed by nurse practitioners, caring for minor ailments. These kinds of clinics make great sense from the point of view of convenience and cost and have proven to be very popular, particularly given the shortage of convenient primary care that exists in many communities.
There are signs that the scope of retail health is deepening. Pharmacies are planning to do more laboratory testing, in part to support a broader array of health advice from pharmacists, and in part to allow a wider set of complaints to be addressed in the retail pharmacies. Walgreens has developed accountable care organizations with hospital partners. At CVS Health, we have been very public about our effort to align with integrated delivery systems to help them manage population health by emphasizing joint efforts to improve medication adherence, support the management of complex patients, and create direct electronic medical record connectivity between our 900 retail clinics and the doctors’ offices. Just last month, Walmart announced that their new clinics would be primary care offices, capable of caring for a range of chronic disease.Read the rest of this entry »