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Changing Healthcare Delivery: A Look at Walgreens Healthcare Clinics

As the nation’s healthcare system enters a period of profound change, clinics in retail settings offer patient access, convenience, and cost. The number of retail clinic sites increased almost 900 percent between 2006 and 2014, from 200 to 1,800. The number of patient visits reached 10.5 million by 2012, representing nearly 2 percent of all primary care encounters in the United States.

Retail clinics are filling gaps in our healthcare system for consumers who are uninsured or underinsured; for families with immediate care needs on weekends and evenings; and for employers, health systems, and insurers looking for lower cost sites of care for low acuity conditions. In a November 2015 study released by Accenture, the number of retail clinics was projected to exceed 2,800 by the year 2017. That number is up 40% from 2014.

With industry statistics and projections as our backdrop, there are more than 350 Healthcare Clinic locations at select Walgreens stores nationwide, with convenient access to the Walgreens pharmacy. Here are a few details:

  • More than 350 clinic locations nationwide
  • Walk-ins welcome and appointments available
  • Open 7 days a week and weeknights
  • Staffed by Board-certified family nurse practitioners and physician assistants
  • Assistance in finding a primary care provider, if needed
  • Follow-up phone call within 48 hours of the visit
  • Accept most insurance plans

In a recent interview with Susan Ferbet, Chief Nurse Practitioner at Walgreens Healthcare Clinics, we discussed the Walgreens model:

Most Important Factors to Consumers

“As we talk with our patients about what are their most important reasons for seeking primary care at our clinics, they cite the following factors:

  • Convenient hours: Patients have the option to access a variety of healthcare services at their convenience.
  • Convenient location: Approximately 75 % of the U.S. population lives within 5 miles of a Walgreens, and our Healthcare Clinics are located in more than350 of those stores across the country. 
  • No appointment needed: Though we serve many walk-in patients, we do also offer the convenience of online appointment scheduling.
  • Lower cost: Forty percent of our Healthcare Clinic patients say if it were not for our clinics, they either would go to a more costly point of care or may not seek treatment at all. 
  • Quality: Our Board Certified NPs and PAs provide high quality care to our patients. Our quality scores far surpass the national benchmarks, so patients know they can get great quality.”

Walgreens healthcare providers actively listen to each patients’ concerns, conduct thorough examinations, and provide individualized diagnoses and treatment plans. They can also write prescriptions when clinically appropriate. 

Ferbet also offers, “More than 80 percent of Healthcare Clinic visits are covered under some form of insurance. Patients frequently ask if they can come to our clinics for other healthcare services Healthcare Clinics provide. We have made it simple for the patient—focused on them and their needs.” The medical conditions most often treated at Walgreens Healthcare Clinics are:

  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Upper respiratory infections/bronchitis
  • Urinary tract infections

The largest percentage of Walgreens patients are covered by some form of insurance. Walgreens looks to contract with managed care organizations, Medicaid programs, and Managed Medicare programs, in all market areas where they provide care. 

Primary Care Physicians, Coordination, and Follow-Up

If a patient already has a primary care physician (PCP), Walgreens Healthcare Clinics seek to be collaborative with that primary care physician in a number of ways. “We ask patients if they have a primary care physician; when they share this we send a record of their visit to the PCP following their visit. If they do not have primary care physicians, we offer to provide them with names of primary care physicians in their area. For all patients who have a PCP, of course, we keep their doctors informed, receiving a confidential summary of the patient visit. For all patients that are seen for a medical condition, we follow up them 48 hours later to check to see how they are feeling and to see if there are any questions we can answer. We also have a team of RNs that will assist patients with getting tests, follow up appointments, and collecting records from these follow-up visits. We always want to provide the best possible service and follow-up to our patients.”

Together with other nationally-recognized healthcare providers, Walgreens is significantly broadening patient access to needed medical care. “At our Healthcare Clinics, we want to provide an important and convenient portal for connecting patients into the healthcare delivery system. Even for consumers who have established physician relationships, clinics are a more convenient option than navigating a hospital campus or waiting to get an appointment at the doctor’s office.   

This article is an excerpt from the 3Q 2016 PX Advisor.

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