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Are Retail Clinics Competitors or Potential Partners?

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, April 8, 2013

When Walgreens announced last week that it will expand the services offered by its Take Care Clinics to include the diagnosis and treatmen t of patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, it may have seemed to some healthcare financial executives that their competition just got stiffer. Yet expanded retail clinics could be a potential revenue source—if you can establish a partnership quickly.

Retail clinics originated in stores such as Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart to provide treatment of acute, minor injuries. Staffed mainly by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the clinics typically see patients in need of basic services like flu shots and strep tests.

Now that Walgreens is moving further into the realm of primary care, Kathy Bourgault, vice president, revenue cycle at Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg, Va., thinks it is a model that could provide hospitals with referrals.

"It would be a smart move for health systems to take advantage of a retail clinic as a feeder system for their hospitals," she says. "If you partner with them, then as soon as a patient walks in who isn't within the scope of services and needs something more, the clinic can transfer them to the hospital, either through the ED or another department. These clinics offer a menu of services with bundled pricing, usually low-level pricing, but they can't treat everything."

"A hospital that establishes a relationship with medical records that can be shared or transferred will establish where the business will go when it's something beyond the scope of the clinic. … It's an interesting concept and, structured right, it could probably work well," she adds.

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