There’s a new imperative to deliver health care in the right place at the right time, and at the right price.
The recently reported collaboration between Baylor Scott & White Health’s (BSWH) primary physician group, HealthTexas Provider Network (HealthTexas) and Walgreens offers a new entry point to quality health care. In this agreement, Walgreens in-store clinics (Healthcare Clinic) will participate in the Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance (the BSWH accountable care organization).
Walgreens plans to open more than a dozen in-store clinics across Dallas/Fort Worth this fall. They will offer weeknight and weekend care by nurse practitioners and physician assistants who will have HealthTexas providers serving as collaborating physicians – these physicians are also providers in the Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance (BSWQA). Healthcare Clinics will be in-network participants in BSWQA.
Management consulting firm Accenture predicts the number of retail clinics to double between 2012 and 2015 to nearly 3,000 locations. There are a number of reasons for this. The Affordable Care Act is bringing millions of newly insured Americans into the health care system creating a significant need for greater access to health care services. Pharmacies and retailers collaborating with physicians in treating acute care and preventive needs for patients is an effective means for bolstering convenient access to care to our patient communities.
Nearly 1 out of 4 U.S. adults have sought treatment in a retail clinic and most of those would do so again, according to a recent survey. A recent Walgreens study shows half of all patients who visit its Healthcare Clinics are making return visits. People are attracted to the convenient location and hours, walk-in appointments and transparent pricing for treatment. While retail clinics have only been in operation since 2000, the Convenient Care Association estimates 33 percent of Americans now live within 10 minutes of a retail health care clinic.
Retail clinics have at times been viewed as competitors by some physicians and hospitals. However, the collaborative agreements between Walgreens and both HealthTexas and BSWQA demonstrate the importance and value of providers in the community working together to help improve, and fill gaps in patient care. These organizations will be linked by treatment protocols and the physicians will be available to provide consultations by telephone and email, as well as review patient charts on an ongoing basis.
Plans are in place to link the clinics to the BSWH health information exchange, offering the electronic sharing of health information in a secure environment. Tomorrow’s health care will most likely be characterized more by collaborative agreements, where health organizations and retailers set aside their competitive instincts and share complementary strengths for the sake of patients.