Retail clinics, pharmacy take hold as health access solution

Another factor greasing the skids for health system/retail pharmacy/clinic alliances is a clear shift in cultural and societal attitudes. The nation appears to be ready for the integration of retail pharmacies and walk-in ambulatory care centers with hospitals, and the use of those community-based outlets as initial points of contact with health professionals for many health concerns and conditions. 


That fact is borne out by a nationwide survey of more than 34,000 households conducted by Boehringer Ingelheim in 2011. A large majority of Americans, ranging from 69% to 76% of respondents, told BI researchers they were “very comfortable” discussing such chronic conditions as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high cholesterol, stroke and kidney disease with their community pharmacist. They also put a high value on pharmacists’ in-depth counseling services and knowledge of their specific conditions. 


Significantly, more than 9-in-10 patients who responded to the survey also said it was important that their pharmacy’s staff coordinate care with other healthcare professionals — e.g., doctors and nurses — seen by members of their household.


Increasingly, the provider and payer communities also are ready to accept the new health network paradigm, BI reported. “The acceptance of retail clinics by other players in health care has evolved from initial skepticism to curiosity to increasingly comprehensive collaborations,” the report noted. “By building relationships with other players in the industry — pharmacy, [primary care physicians], hospitals, health systems, [health maintenance organizations] and payers — retail clinics are creating new opportunities for enhancing patient care.”