As the potential market for walk-in care grows, traditional retail clinics are feeling the heat of competition from a variety of sources, including physician practices, pharmacists, and even unmanned kiosks in grocery pharmacies.
It may be true that physicians and retail clinics are forming an alliance of sorts. Still, physicians don’t have to cede the entire market of walk-in traffic to retail clinics, says Tom Charland, CEO of Merchant Medicine, Shoreview, Minn.
Studies show that more than 70 percent of acute care visits to retail clinics consist of sinusitis, pharyngitis, otitis media, otitis externa, conjunctivitis and urinary tract infection, he points out. There’s no reason physicians can’t capture some of that business.
Merchant Medicine’s Green Card™ Care program helps physicians organize their workflow and marketing to recapture lost patients or neutralize competitors for these episodes of care. The result: Patients can be in and out of the doctor’s office within 45 minutes.
Pharmacists can play a role
Pharmacists believe they can play a role in chronic disease management as well. “We believe that when retail pharmacies get involved in helping patients manage chronic diseases, all players in the health care system can benefit,” says Scott Summers, a director of marketing in Cardinal Health’s pharmaceutical segment. For a number of years, Cardinal Health has been helping retail pharmacies offer comprehensive services that help patients manage diabetes, he says. And the company recently introduced a similar program for pharmacies that want to help patients better manage their heart health.
“Chain pharmacies and independently owned pharmacies alike can benefit because these types of services help them diversify their overall revenue beyond just filling prescriptions,” he says. “They also benefit because patients who are managing chronic disease states tend to need many medications and related products – and offering these types of services can help retail pharmacies build stronger, more loyal relationships with those patients.
“We’ve also seen cases where local family physicians benefit, too,” continues Summers. “For example, when our pharmacy customers specialize in helping patients manage a chronic disease state, like diabetes, they can form relationships with the patient’s primary care physician. The pharmacist and physician can work together to ensure the patient is adhering to medications and taking other necessary precautions to improve overall health.”
Ultimately, it is the patient who benefits, says Summers. “Local retail pharmacies are one of the most accessible points of care for many patients. They’re often more cost effective for screenings and related services. And, pharmacies are also obviously very well positioned to help patients better understand and adhere to their medication therapy.”
The doctor is on
Meanwhile, a Dublin, Ohio-based company intends to use telemedicine to allow consumers to step into a kiosk, have their blood pressure and other vitals taken, and chat with a physician about what’s ailing them. The company, HealthSpot, is testing the concept with the Central Ohio Primary Care physician group, but it intends to install its Care4 Stations in grocery pharmacies and other locations around the country.
Each Care4 Station is equipped with standard diagnostic tools, including thermometer, scale, sphygmomanometer, otoscope, stethoscope, dermascope and spirometer, points out Brian Slutter, chief strategy officer. The physician, via telemedicine, interacts with the patient on screen, and controls the diagnostic devices from his or her end. A HealthSpot attendant is on hand at the Care4 Station to lend consumers a hand, should they need assistance. (The attendant also disinfectants surfaces after the consumer leaves.)
HealthSpot intends to initially target grocery pharmacies, allowing the consumer to either get an e-prescription filled on the spot, or to buy foods that the doctor has suggested.