Call it the Year of the Retail Clinic.
As the Drug Store News Group and its partners at the Convenient Care Association played host to several hundred in-store based providers in Orlando, Fla., in late July for the fifth annual Retail Clinician Education Congress, several signs began to emerge that the retail clinic model had reached a critical tipping point. Not the least of which is that for the third year in a row, the U.S. Senate had resolved to name the week of Aug. 6 National Convenient Care Week.
“The U.S. Senate’s resolution recognizes the tremendous value of the convenient care option,” CCA executive director Tine Hansen-Turton told RCEC attendees.
“DSN has long believed that the practitioners working in America’s retail clinics are on the front lines of a major revolution in health care,” DSN editor in chief Rob Eder told RCEC attendees during his July 30 opening remarks. “The Senate’s resolution and its call on the states to champion the unilateral expansion of retail clinics is an important indication that people in Washington understand and appreciate the role retail clinics can and should play in the future of health care.”
But even before the Senate’s resolution, clinic leaders agreed that in recent months support had been growing for the retail clinic model, beginning with an article published in the May 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Retail Clinics and Drugstore Medicine,” written by a Philadelphia-based physician who came out squarely in support of the model.
The JAMA article was followed soon after by the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in late June, which led to a series of high-profile news articles, including a July 29 story that appeared on page 1 of the Sunday New York Times, “Dr. Shortage to worsen under health reform.” A story that appeared the next day on page 1 of the Los Angeles Times was perhaps a bit more to the point: “Retail clinics grow with healthcare act.”
By Aug. 1, with RCEC 2012 in full swing, the Massachusetts state legislature voted to pass an important healthcare cost containment bill, which was signed into law a week later by Gov. Deval Patrick. Among other important measures designed to save the state $200 billion in healthcare costs over the next 15 years, the new law expands the services of retail clinics in Massachusetts to the full scope of practice for a nurse practitioner, including diagnosis/treatment, management and monitoring of acute and chronic disease, and wellness and preventive services.
Just as Massachusetts has proven to a be model for health reform, it is believed that the state’s response to better manage health costs will likely become a model for other states, vastly expanding the scope of services for retail clinics all across the country. Meanwhile, it is projected that retail clinics will more or less double in number by 2015, according to estimates from Merchant Medicine.
Against this backdrop, the mood was decidedly upbeat among attendees at RCEC 2012. The event featured 15 hours of live continuing education dually accredited for both nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and the presentation of the fifth annual Retail Clinician CARE Awards, which honor the nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists whose special actions have come to define excellence in retail-based patient care. For the second year in a row, the event also included a special Collaborative Care track of education — six hours accredited for NPs, PAs and pharmacists.
Highlights from the event, along with profiles of this year’s CARE Award winners — and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Shirley Chater, PhD, RN, FAAN, former commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration and chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows Program’s national advisory committee — will appear in the September/October edition of DSN Collaborative Care.