Health system-backed clinic model thriving

6/29/2009

NEW YORK —Today’s overburdened U.S. healthcare system, coupled with the success of the retail-based clinic concept, has helped pave the way for the health system-backed clinic model—a rising star within the convenient care industry.

“The importance of this particular segment of the industry is that it demonstrates the value that convenient care can bring to existing networks of healthcare delivery,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association. “These health systems that run clinics can use them to divert overcrowding from their emergency rooms, can refer patients into the system who need additional or long-term care and can build awareness of the services they provide in and around their region.”

The CCA was founded by some of the early adopters of the model—such as Aurora Health Care, Geisinger Careworks, AtlanticCare Health Care System, Sutter Health and Memorial Hospital and Health System—and CCA’s membership in that area continues to grow. There currently are more than 1,200 convenient care clinics across the nation. Of those, more than 95% are operated by members of the association, and roughly 10% are operated by health systems, according to the CCA.

But even as these two clinic models converge, the business objectives of each are somewhat unique, noted Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, which in recent years has studied the retail health clinic model and the industry’s growth. “[The health system-backed model] is a very different model. The hospitals seem to be doing this for strategic, defensive purposes and not to generate income but to protect the franchise; whereas, those that are in this in the retail model seem to be doing it as part of a portfolio of services to provide retail customers—and those are two very different models,” Keckley said.

That said, there are examples of collaboration between traditional convenient care operators and local healthcare entities. For instance, Cleveland Clinic earlier this year entered a clinical collaboration with CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic business. By the end of 2009, the collaboration will include nine locations in northeast Ohio, each one staffed by a MinuteClinic nurse practitioner, with clinical consultation provided by a Cleveland Clinic Health System-appointed medical director.

One of the major benefits of this partnership is that Cleveland Clinic and MinuteClinic are fully integrating their electronic medical record systems so each Cleveland Clinic-affiliated MinuteClinic will have access—with the patient’s consent—to a patient’s Cleveland Clinic MyChart EMR, which includes medical history, prescriptions, treatments and health maintenance information.

Nationwide health systems are affiliated with more than 25 Walmart clinics, which are branded “The Clinic at Walmart.” Among the more recent announcements are partnerships with the CoxHealth health system and Northwest Health System.

In mid-February, Walmart announced a partnership with CoxHealth to open its first in-store clinic in Missouri, as well as a partnership with Northwest Health Systems to operate two CareExpress clinics (formerly RediClinic sites) in two northwest Arkansas Walmart stores.

There’s also Supervalu, which has 13 retail-based clinics operating within its Cub Foods, Shop ‘n Save and Albertsons banners. Its hospital and health system partners include North Memorial Hospital (Minneapolis), Palomar Pamerado Health (California) and St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (Idaho). Shop ‘n Save and Albertsons banners. Its hospital and health system partners include North Memorial Hospital (Minneapolis), Palomar Pamerado Health (California) and St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (Idaho).

Also partnered with St. Alphonsus is Rite Aid, which has three St. Alphonsus Express Care locations in the Boise area. Rite Aid also has clinics in Tacoma, Wash., and Lakewood, Wash., through a partnership with MultiCare Health Systems; Sutter Express Care clinics in the greater Sacramento, Calif., area via Sutter Health; and Lindora Health Clinics in southern California through a partnership with Lindora Inc., a medical weight-control system.

Mayo Clinic also has jumped aboard the bandwagon and operates two Mayo Express Care clinics in a HyVee store and a shopping plaza in Rochester, Minn.

The CCA recently created a forum, called the Health Systems Roundtable, specifically for nonprofit health systems. The goal of the group: to discuss challenges and opportunities and to share best practices in merging the traditional health system model with retail-based care. Dean Lin, CEO of Careworks Convenient Healthcare, Geisinger Health System’s retail clinic business, is chairing the group, which plans to meet quarterly.

Through a collaboration with Lehigh Valley Health Network, Careworks Convenient Healthcare operates two retail health clinics in King’s Market in Allentown, Pa., and Weis Market in Schnecksville, Pa.

Retail-based clinic operators have long stressed the use of electronic medical records and their desire to work closely with the local medical community to ensure continuity of care, and the health system-backed model further facilitates networking opportunities and a streamlining of patient records.

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