Consumer-directed healthcare model struts its stuff

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Anyone wondering what the future of health care under a more consumer-directed model will look like got a glimpse of it from two pieces of news this week.

(THE NEWS: Sam’s Club celebrates men’s health with free screenings. For the full story, click here)

(THE NEWS: MinuteClinic offers free diabetes monitoring package. For the full story, click here)

An estimated 1-in-6 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes. Because of this, the free men’s health screenings that Unilever is sponsoring over the weekend at Sam’s Club stores, provided by Carmen Ingle & Associates, indicate of just how much potential retailers have to address even some of the most serious health crises.

A nurse practitioner doesn’t have the education or specialization of an oncologist, and while Sam’s Club doesn’t have clinics, it shows that retailers can offer some of the same services as physician offices and thus reduce the burden on them, all the while doing so at a lower price. That, in turn, can help lower the burden on people buying their own health insurance and payers, as well as the employers — including many of the small business owners who are Sam’s Club members — that will be required to buy medical insurance for their employees under the healthcare-reform law.

In addition to Sam’s Club, CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic locations will offer a package of diabetes management services this summer. With diabetes — mostly Type 2 — affecting nearly 26 million Americans, retailers are in an ideal position to do a lot to help mitigate the epidemic.

Regardless of the amount of money healthcare reform saves the system overall, these kinds of services offer another dimension of savings by providing low-cost, walk-in care, especially now that the model is changing to expand from acute care to detection and management of chronic disease states.

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