WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — The virtual clinic services that Rite Aid is offering at its stores in Detroit are emblematic of the increasingly important role of retail pharmacy in health care and the pharmacy’s growing position as a one-stop destination for health.
(THE NEWS: Rite Aid offers 'virtual' clinics. For the full story, click here)
In a recent interview, National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation president Edith Rosato told Drug Store News that the organization already is working with state governments to lower the age at which children can receive vaccinations at the pharmacy, as well as expanding the range of vaccinations that pharmacists can administer, creating yet another clinical role for pharmacy.
Online virtual doctor visits have been around for some time. Zipnosis.com, for example, allows patients to log onto the site, answer the same questions a healthcare provider would ask a patient and, once the evaluation is complete, receive a response from a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Depending on the condition and the interview, a patient can receive anything from advice to a referral or even an electronic prescription. Zipnosis plans to expand to 10 states by the end of this year.
What makes Rite Aid’s collaboration with OptumHealth significant is that it brings these services into the store, giving the patient immediate access to the pharmacy, offering access to expertise from physicians, nurses and pharmacists — without the need to have the former two physically present in the store — and, if patients receive prescriptions, it offers the convenience of the pharmacy literally just a few steps away.