Will retail take over primary care?
Walgreens and CVS pharmacy chains are aggressively developing primary care venues within their stores. Their approaches are similar yet different, although the underlying strategy is the same for both.
The idea is to deliver “episodic care” to those in need with a motto of, essentially, “you’re sick, we’re quick.” The CVS model is known as MinuteClinic with 800 units nationwide and an expectation to grow to at least 1,500. The CVS health services are staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants.
CVS has relationships with physicians, available to offer advice to the NP or PA on request. Not only medical care is offered, but also counselling for nutrition, weight loss and smoking cessation. About 85% of clients have insurance and most of those have their own primary care physician (PCP).
Recently, Target announced that it was selling its in-house pharmacies to CVS, who will in turn, run them under their own brand and in many cases open Minute Clinics in the Target stores.
Duane Reade, a large pharmacy chain in New York City, opened primary care clinics staffed with physicians in some of its stores. Called Dr Walk-In Medical Care or sometimes “Doctor on Premises,” they found it not only very successful as a product offering, but also because it brought customers into their stores and generated downstream sales of drugs and other products.
Customers tended to be those who might have their own PCP but who did not want to wait days to see the doctor for a minor, but troubling, issue. They found that the cost was low, the wait short and the doctor well trained.
Further reading: Strategies for making PCP practices more efficient
Dr Walk-In performs exams, basic treatment services, health screenings and vaccinations. The physician offers episodic and semi-urgent care, but does not invest in a PCP-patient, long-term relationship. Rather, he or she referred back to the individual’s own PCP or to a specialist if indicated.
The clinics were highly successful and when Duane Reade was acquired by Walgreens, Walgreens decided to purchase Dr Walk-In from its founders and expand the concept nationally as Healthcare Clinic with a switch to nurse practitioners and physician assistants.