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Quality of care found at retail clinics shouldn't be questioned

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Retail pharmacy operators continue to expand their presence in the burgeoning market for retail-based walk-in clinics, and the services those convenient-care centers provide. And there’s growing evidence that the nation’s overwrought, cash-crunched healthcare system desperately needs those services in a time of dwindling resources, overworked primary care physicians and unsustainable cost hikes.

(THE NEWS: Take Care Health Systems' treatment of pharyngitis, upper respiratory infections exceeds national quality benchmarks. For the full story, click here)

Indeed, the more than 1,100 in-store clinics opened by the nation’s drug, supermarket and mass-merchant pharmacy retailers over the past decade are providing a critical service, much the way a steam pressure valve keeps a boiler from exploding. And the quality of care now is beyond dispute.

To the few remaining critics who still question the value of in-store retail clinics and the level of care provided by the nurse practitioners and other health professionals who staff them, Walgreens gave another answer on Monday. The answer came from its Take Care Health Systems subsidiary, which operates more than 700 in-store clinics and worksite health centers.

According to the company, the more than 350 Take Care Clinics within its drug stores exceeded national quality benchmarks for their treatment of pharyngitis and upper respiratory infections, as measured by the Jefferson School of Population Health.

The reasons are easy enough to fathom, and they go to the heart of the mission that community pharmacies and in-store clinics say they’re in business to provide: quality, patient-focused care. Take Care professionals, according to the Jefferson study, demonstrated a patient-centric focus both at the time of initial contact between patient and professional, and afterward, when all patients receive a follow-up call within 48 hours of the visit.

The announcement came fast on the heels of other news on the healthcare front for the nation’s largest drug chain. On Oct. 7, Walgreens revealed it is working with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases to educate the public and health professionals about flu prevention resources. The company also has joined with Families Fighting Flu, a nonprofit organization of families and healthcare practitioners, to heighten flu awareness and encourage vaccinations for children and families.

In all, Walgreens said it plans to administer no fewer than 15 million flu shots during the flu season of late 2010 and early 2011.

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