Paging Dr. Drug Store: Retailers expand healthcare access

Retailization of health care a growing trend

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — The retailization of health care, as it's called on the cover of the Aug. 27 issue of Drug Store News, could turn out to be one of the most significant developments in the history of retail and health care alike.

(THE NEWS: Walmart takes a shot at expanding healthcare access. For the full story, click here.)

Even in recent memory, health care usually meant setting up an appointment at the doctor's office, waiting — sometimes for days, depending on the doctor's availability — and then getting a prescription and taking it to the pharmacy. Now, the retail pharmacy and retail clinic are becoming destinations for health care as well, particularly some primary care services traditionally reserved for physician offices, such as immunizations and physicals, offered by pharmacists themselves, nurses and even in-store physicians.

As a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers noted in response to the Supreme Court's upholding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, "The growth of high-deductible health plans underscores consumers' cost sensitivity and puts increased pressure on insurers for the most cost-effective healthcare options, such as retail clinics, e-visits and mobile health, which provide convenient primary care services."

All of this, together with the greatly increased number of patients that the healthcare-reform law and the Supreme Court decision have created, spells a magic word: accessibility. That's good news for patients, and it's especially good news for retailers as they are set to become increasingly important destinations for healthcare services.

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