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Telehealth offers promise for expanding healthcare reach at lower cost

BY Alaric DeArment

The Department of Health and Human Services is setting aside $5.3 million to expand health information technology — particularly telehealth — in rural areas in order to improve mental health services for veterans.

Telehealth represents one of the best ways to expand healthcare services to underserved areas while also lowering costs by expanding the area a health professional can cover from a single location.

It’s growing rapidly: According to research firm IHS, 1.8 million patients worldwide will access health and wellness care through electronic and video links by 2017, marking a sixfold expansion over the next five years. Meanwhile, Towers Watson released a report predicting that more than a quarter of employers in the United States would offer telehealth options by the middle of this year.

The rise in telehealth is being driven by improving technologies and the growth of electronic health records, the MIT Technology Review noted in June, as well as the growth of mobile health apps and other technologies; a desire by payers to reduce costs, a shortage of primary care physicians are also behind the expansion.

Pharmacy retailers are getting into it as well. In about 70 of its stores, all in Detroit and the Northeast, Rite Aid offers NowClinic, which allows patients to have virtual appointments with doctors through a secure webcam connection and even receive prescriptions. A more recent addition to the program allows Wellness Ambassadors to use their iPads to connect customers who have questions about health products to clinical pharmacists working out of a call center in Pittsburgh via a live video chat session.

Walgreens’ Take Care Health Systems is also collaborating with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and telehealth services provider American Well to provide remote-site health services. Through a pilot program, dubbed OnlineCareNC, BCBSNC employees receive telehealth consultations with Take Care nurse practitioners, health coaches or nutritionists through video, secure text chat or over the phone.

Last month, at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Total Store Expo in Las Vegas, a panel that included executives from ScriptPro, Mscripts, Thrifty White Pharmacy and Rite Aid discussed telepharmacy, particularly ScriptPro’s telehealth products, Thrifty White’s efforts to bring telepharmacy services to underserved areas of North Dakota and the growing use of mobile technology in health care.

 

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Bi-Lo Holdings to sell seven stores to Publix

BY Jason Owen

LAKELAND and JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Publix Super Markets and Bi-Lo Holdings LLC, parent company of the Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie grocery store chains, on Friday announced they have entered into an agreement under which Publix is expected to purchase seven Bi-Lo-branded stores in North and South Carolina. The transaction is projected to close in October 2013 and includes seven leased stores as well as major equipment. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Publix has a strong financial foundation that allows us to aggressively grow throughout existing markets and our new Charlotte Division,” said Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw. “Publix offers differentiating services we know our customers have come to expect from us like premier service, valuable savings, quality products and knowledgeable associates. We’re excited to continue building life-long relationships with our Carolina customers and communities.”

“We have and will continue to fine-tune our company and network of stores so that we can reinvest in what matters most for our customers. Examples are our recent announcements to acquire 165 stores from Delhaize Group, and 22 stores from Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company,” said Randall Onstead, president and CEO of Bi-Lo Holdings. “This process is helping us fuel our long-term strategy of providing the freshest foods and the best deals to a broader base of customers. Where we are refining our store footprint with this transaction, we will ensure impacted associates are treated respectfully and can pursue other open positions in nearby stores.”

The BI-Lo-branded stores that Publix will acquire from Bi-Lo Holdings include:

  • 8120 S. Tryon Street, Charlotte, N.C.
  • 12810 York Road, Charlotte, N.C.
  • 9815 Rose Commons Drive, Huntersville, N.C.
  • 158 Hwy. 274, Lake Wylie, S.C.
  • Fincher Farm Rd, Matthews, N.C.
  • 1735 Heckle Blvd., Rock Hill, S.C.
  • 2186 Cherry Rd, Rock Hill, S.C.

Grand opening dates for the locations will depend on the scope of the remodels. The acquisition will allow Publix to further enhance its footprint in the company’s Charlotte Division. The company continues to look at aggressive growth in the North Carolina market.


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Cubist completes Trius acquisition

BY Alaric DeArment

LEXINGTON, Mass. — Cubist has completed its purchase of Trius Therapeutics, Cubist said.

The $704 million acquisition will give Cubist control of the drug tedizolid phosphate, an experimental drug that it said had the potential to treat resistant infections. Trius ceased to be traded on the NASDAQ earlier this week.

"The need for new treatments to combat drug-resistant bacteria is growing, and we will work diligently to bring this antibiotic product candidate to market in order to help hospitals and their patients combat these infections," Cubist CEO Michael Bonney said. "This transaction is also an important step toward achieving Cubist’s ‘Building Blocks of Growth’ and continuing our track record of driving shareholder value over the long term."

 

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