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Telehealth is expected to experience a sharp rise in the number of patients, according a new report by health market research firm IHS, which projects that telehealth will reach 1.8 million patients around the world by 2017.
Reports are emerging about primary care physician shortages all the time. And telehealth can help expand the retail clinic model, especially in rural areas where population counts may not justify the cost of multiple full-time nurse practitioner salaries.
Pharmacy operators like Thrifty White – which serves patients in the rural Midwest through its network of 90 stores – have offered remote-site prescription dispensing and telemedicine services for years. Thrifty White is well-experienced in the technology, as it opened its first telepharmacy site in 2003 and currently has eight telepharmacy sites.
As noted above, the reality is that such technology can help further expand the retail clinic model.
"For retail-affiliated clinics, telemedicine can bring real time, face-to-face connections with primary care physicians, medical specialists and hospitals. This will transform the role of retail clinics to become a thousand points of entry to a virtually-integrated system of care and dramatically increase their revenues,” Ronald Hammerle, chairman and president of Health Resources, told Drug Store News. Health Resources helps design and build health systems.
Echoing that sentiment, Peter Hotz, group VP of Walgreens/Take Care Health Systems,told Drug Store News in a late 2012 interview that he believes there’s an opportunity to offer video health within the retail-based clinics to provide patients access to specialists.
In late 2011, Take Care Health Systems partnered with Cisco to operate the LifeConnections Health Center on Cisco's campus in San Jose, Calif. The worksite facility is connected to Cisco’s campus in North Carolina where employees can interact with a physician at the San Jose campus via high-definition video.
It also is interesting to note that during CVS Caremark’s 2012 Analyst Day in December, Larry Merlo, president and CEO, said “the growth in innovative care delivery models like telemedicine or telepharmacy have the potential to reshape how care is delivered.”