On the brink of Clinics 2.0
Since the inception of retail-based health clinics in 2000, the concept has grown to more than 1,300 locations throughout the United States and, in more recent months, has celebrated several significant milestones that prove clinics are not only an integral part of the U.S. healthcare system but also are a viable model for retailers when handled correctly. The real question now: Are we on the brink of clinics version 2.0?
Recently, CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic surpassed its 10 millionth patient visit and, during the third quarter, inked its 11th clinical affiliation; the Convenient Care Association celebrated its five-year anniversary; and the fellowship of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia elected the first nurse practitioner to its ranks — Sandy Ryan, chief nurse practitioner officer for Walgreens’ Take Care Health Systems. These are just a few of the more recent milestones, and clearly are not all-inclusive.
Now the industry is trying to make sense of Walmart’s request for information sent to strategic partners. Walmart has denied that it is building a national, integrated, low-cost primary care healthcare platform; however, the retailer reportedly has not disputed that it is looking for new partners for its 140 clinics nationwide. According to published reports, Walmart is looking to partner with outside healthcare companies to treat and manage a range of medical conditions — including HIV, diabetes, arthritis and clinical depression. (See "Higher healthcare calling motivates.")
The bottom line: Such developments provide a glimpse into what retail-based health care, which has estimated clinic sales of $733.4 million, could look like come version 2.0.
“In terms of the acute care potential in the coming healthcare world with a broader section of the population, I think that is a true opportunity for retail clinics; and then if they can figure out pathways to really expand their services to chronic care patients, then they become an even greater destination for an even wider swathe of patients,” said Larry Kocot, deputy director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution.
Already the business model is no longer entirely dependent on simple, acute ailments, but is becoming increasingly integrated with medication therapy management, OTCs and nontraditional therapies, and dispensing. Not to mention the fact that clinics, especially worksite clinics, can serve as an alternative for employers looking to lower healthcare costs.
For example, Take Care Health Systems offers specialty medication injections and infusions for patients with asthma and osteoporosis in select Tampa, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; and Pittsburgh locations.
“I think we are crossing the bridge from 1.0, which was a nurse practitioner with a computer hoping to get 20 visits a day, to now a more sophisticated business model that is going to become, I think, a staple in the industry,” said Paul Keckley, executive director for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
Keckley believed that, going forward, it isn’t inconceivable that clinics could become accountable care organizations and operate as medical homes. “I’m very excited about the prospects of the industry. … I think these folks have matured in their business model, and I’m going to be fascinated when they are contracting directly with major employers to provide a whole suite of primary care services — and when they, in some markets, become the exclusive primary care network for a health plan,” Keckley said. “I think those are inevitable.”
Zipnosis to showcase technology in Verizon Wireless booth at mHealth Summit
MINNEAPOLIS and SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Zipnosis, which offers an online Web portal that allows patients to have virtual visits with a clinician for minor ailments, and Verizon Wireless have announced that Zipnosis will be a featured technology in the Verizon booth at the mHealth Summit Convention in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5 to 7.
The mHealth Summit is the largest conference in the world focused on mobile and wireless health solutions.
Zipnosis offers treatment for minor health problems such as sinus infections, bladder infections and allergies. How it works: Patients visit Zipnosis.com, create an account, and complete a software-guided interview that collects their medical information. Within an hour, the patient receives a diagnosis and treatment from a board-certified, licensed clinician using the Zipnosis online portal. Each visit is $25 and can be paid with a credit card or health savings account.
“Zipnosis was designed to allow patients and providers access to affordable healthcare anywhere, anytime,” Zipnosis CEO Jon Pearce said. “Verizon Wireless provides an industry-leading network infrastructure and powerful devices that will allow us to rapidly expand our services, and the value of Zipnosis, across America.”
Verizon Wireless is leveraging its scale and reach to deliver a diverse set of wireless technology solutions for healthcare providers, payers and suppliers that enable communication, collaboration and secure information flow.
“We’re helping to bring new technologies to the marketplace by enabling the mobile and wireless health ecosystem,” explained Arthur Lane, associate director of healthcare strategy and new market development for Verizon Wireless. “Zipnosis’ digital platform is an innovative way for patients and providers to connect for acute medical needs using wireless devices like smartphones and tablets to access the portal."
Illinois governor receives flu shot at Walgreens to emphasize flu prevention
DEERFIELD, Ill. — In an effort to emphasize the importance of being protected against the flu, Illinois governor Pat Quinn visited a Chicago Walgreens to receive his seasonal flu shot.
Walgreens, which announced earlier this week that it was teaming up with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide flu shot vouchers to uninsured Americans, offers flu shots at its pharmacies at Take Care Clinics daily, with no appointment necessary.
Quinn received his flu shot Friday at Walgreens on 933 N. State St. in Chicago.
“For those who haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it’s prime time for prevention with changes in the weather, the holiday travel season and many other ways in which germs and viruses spread this time of year,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness services and solutions. “We’re proud to have [governor Quinn] reinforce the need for protection and prevention with his flu shot, and helping to recognize the access we provide to immunizations through our network of pharmacists and more than 600 points of care across Illinois.”
National Influenza Vaccination Week kicks off Sunday.