- Retail health clinics have seen a surge over the past decade, bringing major changes to the healthcare industry, particularly in the realm of providing low-cost, quality care to patients at a very local level. Recently, retail health clinics have increased their scope of influence into population health management, implementing strategies to increase medication adherence and serve chronically ill patients.
HealthITAnalytics.com spoke with Peter Goldbach, MD, Chief Medical Officer of RediClinic and Health Dialog, regarding the relationship between retail health clinics and population health management.
“Retail clinics make good healthcare more accessible as well as affordable for a broad group of Americans, which means people get the care they need a return to health faster,” he says. “Perhaps more importantly, people are getting the care they need in the right setting. That means problems like strep throat don’t find their way to the ER, and this cost avoidance is good for patients and our healthcare system at large.”
Although retail health clinics are not typically associated with population health management, nor was that their intended purpose, Goldbach maintains that retail clinics have nonetheless played a pivotal role in improving health by increasing the availability of quality care and offering easily accessible services, such as immunizations.
“You might be shopping in a grocery store or in your pharmacy and realize that now you can get your necessary immunizations there, and get your kids immunized,” Goldbach says. “As a result of that convenient care, more and more people are receiving necessary immunizations, so that’s a really good thing from a population health perspective.”
However, retail clinics’ roles in population health management goes beyond immunizing people against this year’s flu virus. Retail health clinics are also playing integral roles in caring for chronically ill patients and coaching them in chronic disease management, according to Goldbach.
Retail health clinics are in a unique position where their location and resulting convenience allows them to interact with patients and increase patient engagement. It’s that patient engagement that allows retail health clinics to increase the services they provide and manage population health.
“From the very beginning, it was minor urgent care, and then they started offering employment and school physicals, immunizations, travel medicine, and we at RediClinic offer a medically supervised weight loss program that you can access both in the clinic in your neighborhood and online,” Goldbach says. “So the scope of services is increasing.”
Goldbach looks ahead to the future, where he anticipates the integration of the retail health clinic and the patient-centered medical home as a means of population health management and chronic disease management.
“We’re going to be moving toward a provision of chronic care because if you think about a lot of what’s been written about chronic care and how we’re looking to improve it and keep care coordinated, a lot of that centers on patient-centered medical homes,” he says.
The largest stride retail health clinics make with population health, however, is one with accountable care organizations (ACOs). Goldbach says that ACOs are beginning to recognize retail health clinics as drivers for expanded and cost-effective primary care, and from there relationships between them are blossoming.
“The way I think it’ll play out is that ACOs will embrace retail as the right solution for them,” Goldbach says. “It’ll allow them a larger primary care footprint, it’ll allow them to deliver care more efficiently.”
When considering the low price point of retail health clinics and the resulting extension of primary care and partnerships with ACOs, Goldbach says it’s logical to think that retail health clinics are going to expand and make an impact on the healthcare system.
“Organizing our care into a way we can be more efficient at providing a better price point and a better patient experience is really rational,” he says.
The integration of retail health clinics and ACOs is already happening, Goldbach says.
“Now, we’re becoming part of care provision for communities as parts of ACOs. So we get integrated into the ACO, we become part of their scheduling system, we share medical information on patients, we facilitate success in their contracts because now they can provide care for a lower cost point.”