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WAG, AARP extend U.S. health-screening road trip

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. —For the second time, Walgreens and AARP are teaming up to bring free preventive health services to millions of Americans.

The nation’s top drug store retailer and largest organization for retirees kicked off the second leg of a two-year, national mobile health-screening tour April 21. Now in its second year, the AARP/Walgreens Wellness Tour will administer more than 2.5 million free health screenings in more than 3,000 communities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico by the time the two-year campaign wraps up late this year, Walgreens predicted.

The free tests—which include total cholesterol levels, blood pressure, bone density, glucose levels, waist circumference and body mass index—are aimed at providing adults “with a critical foundation for early disease detection and prevention,” noted Walgreens and AARP in a joint statement.

To date, the AARP/Walgreens Wellness Tour has administered more than $27 million in free screenings, with a two-year goal of providing $60 million in tests. The tour is comprised of nine custom-equipped buses with dedicated staff of certified health screeners that travel separate routes canvassing the country. Each bus spends several days in designated cities providing free services at local events, community centers, Walgreens store locations and other locations with a special emphasis on underserved communities.

After the screenings are performed, a pharmacist or staff member instantly provides the results and reviews them with the consumer.

The results thus far have been eye-opening—and they spotlight a population in need of both health services and lifestyle and dietary changes. Of those screened during the 2009 tours, Walgreens noted, 68.0% had high body mass index, 64.1% had high blood pressure levels, 40.7% had high cholesterol levels and 36.4% had low bone density. “The results from the first year on the road speak volumes to the need for these basic screenings,” said AARP CEO A. Barry Rand.

“During previous tours, I’ve seen how these free screenings can be a life-saving resource. We’re proud to carry on that tradition,” Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson added. “AARP is the perfect ally because of the campaign’s dedication to improving lives and offering greater access to health resources, particularly among those most in need. Together, we can tap into our strong community networks to make sure the tour reaches the people who need us most.”

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Retail clinics: Improved care at a lower cost

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Retail clinics. Save. Money. Without regard to who’s footing the bill exactly — healthcare payer or Jane Patient — retail clinics not only represent a significant cost savings across the board, but by siphoning nonemergency-yet-still-urgent cases out of the emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, retail clinics also can contribute to improved care across the healthcare continuum.

(THE NEWS: Study: Retail clinics save nonemergency patients money. For the full story, click here)

All told there were 119.2 million total ER visits in 2006, up 8.2% as compared with 2004, according to ACEP. Extrapolate that figure with WellPoint’s finding that 19.4% of those visits may be for nonemergencies across the entire nation, and the fuzzy math equates to an approximate 23.1 million non-emergency patients presenting across some 3,833 ERs. For whoever is paying for the cost of care, that’s an expenditure totaling $10.2 billion if every case were to present at an ER; as compared to $1.2 billion if every case were to present at a retail clinic. That’s the cost savings piece.

But cost savings aren’t the only benefit retail clinics afford the overall healthcare system —  there’s a general improvement in care. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, average waiting times for patients triaged with non-emergency ailments at emergency departments range between one and two hours, but only when the ER isn’t crowded. That’s like saying that bee stings don’t hurt, you know, except when they do.

Let’s face it, in a nation of 309 million and counting, there are simply not enough points of care, be it for an emergency or nonemergency situation. Taking nonemergency visits out of emergency rooms would likely improve the efficiency of care for more critical patients, as well as the experience of care for noncritical patients. That’s the improved care piece.

Improved care at a lower cost, that’s what retail clinics bring to the table.

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Tide brings Loads of Hope to Dollar General

BY Allison Cerra

NASHVILLE Tide brought its mobile laundromat to a local Dollar General to benefit victims of the recent floods.

Tide’s Loads of Hope program visited a Nashville Dollar General May 12 to provide customers in the area with clean laundry. One truck and a fleet of vans house more than 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers that are capable of cleaning over 300 loads of laundry every day. Tide washs, dries and folds the clothes for these families for free.

The Loads of Hope program also benefited victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, in addition to other natural disasters.

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