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Clinics expand scope of service


NEW YORK —In recent weeks, several retail-based clinic operators have announced an expansion of services—moves that not only will help alleviate some of the mounting pressure at overflowing emergency rooms and under-staffed physicians’ offices, but also further catapult clinics to the front lines of health care.

The news comes as little surprise as the convenient care industry has been working to drive clinic utilization and further augment—not replace—the medical community.

To drive traffic this back-to-school season, both RediClinic, which has 21 clinics in H-E-B stores in Houston and Austin, Texas, and MinuteClinic, which has some 500 clinics throughout 25 states, have announced the addition of acne treatment.

Acne is the most common skin disorder among Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80% of pre-teens and teens develop acne during puberty.

RediClinic also launched a new smoking-cessation program to help patients kick the habit. The 12-week, four-visit Stop Smoking for Good plan offers customers two customizable treatment plans (nicotine replacement and non-nicotine), as well as the option for patients to begin by testing their “real” lung age.

Individuals on the nicotine replacement plan receive a customized program that incorporates the use of such aids as the nicotine patch or gum, as well as OTC medications to help overcome the addiction. Those who opt for the non-nicotine plan receive a customized and closely monitored program that includes prescription drugs that have been clinically proven to double a person’s likelihood of quitting.

RediClinic recommends that patients first take a spirometry test, which helps identify the “real” age of their lungs and gives patients and their clinicians another benchmark to use when measuring the success of the programs.

During CVS Caremark’s second-quarter conference call on Aug. 4, Tom Ryan, chairman, president and CEO, addressed the new service offerings at MinuteClinic.

“We’ve expanded our service offerings to reduce seasonality and generate multiple visits for each patient. We’ve already had national launches for the treatment of acne and various other skin conditions, and we expect to introduce additional acute services in the second half, and, more importantly, we’re moving to the treatment of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension,” Ryan told analysts.

In other clinic news, Take Care Health Systems, which manages more than 340 clinics across 19 states, recently expanded its service offering to include nebulizer treatments.

The move will not only aid in alleviating some of the pressure at overflowing emergency rooms, but also will help Take Care Health prepare to deal with chronic disease management for asthma in all of its clinics.

Nebulizer treatments will be available year-round to patients 2 years of age and older at all Take Care Clinics and will be administered, if deemed necessary, in conjunction with an evaluation at a Take Care Clinic. While undergoing treatment at a clinic, patients can receive prescriptions for nebulizers that can be filled at the patient’s pharmacy of choice. In addition, providers will offer the patient demonstration and education on the use of nebulizers and inhalers as needed.

According to National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care data provided by Take Care Health, “diseases of the respiratory system” were the third-largest primary diagnosis among visits to the emergency room in 2005 and 2006, comprising 2.8% and 3.1% of all emergency room visits, respectively.

Furthermore, Take Care Health Systems president and CEO Peter Miller stated that over the past year, its clinics have seen more than 300,000 cases of acute respiratory conditions, and its nurse practitioners and physician assistants have written prescriptions for nebulizers or meter-dosed inhalers for about 10% of visits.

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