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Retail Clinics Don’t Threaten Primary Care, CVS Exec Says

Industry should view clinics as ‘safety net’ providers

Retail health isn’t an isolated part of health care, and the industry should view it as part of the solution, according to Nancy Gagliano, MD, senior vice president of CVS Caremark and chief medical officer for CVS MinuteClinic, the largest retail clinic provider in the country.

Gagliano, one of the panelists at this year's American Hospital Association's annual meeting, told attendees that retail clinics provide patients with access to basic health care, eliminating unnecessary visits to emergency rooms. Her remarks were reported on the FierceHealthcare website.

“If a patient has a fever of over 103, the retail clinic is not the right place. If you arrive with a drill stuck in your hand, we will send you to the hospital,” she said.

CVS provides walk-in care 7 days a week, evenings and holidays, in 1,500 MinuteClinics across the country, which provide 60% of the U.S. population with access to health care. Nurse practitioners run the clinics and use evidence-based guidelines included in the electronic health record to treat patients, Gagliano said.

The clinics, she said, are accredited by the Joint Commission and connect patients with medical home practices and primary care physicians within 24 hours of a visit. And if patients who don’t have a primary care physician arrive for care, the clinics provide them with a list of potential providers.

It’s surprising how many of these patients don’t have primary care providers, Gagliano said. Half of patients who use the clinics report they don’t have one, and the reasons for that vary, she said. Perhaps they couldn't get an appointment, or they don’t like primary care doctors. But, she said, the problem will grow because of the shortage of primary care providers.

“Our role is a safety net. We provide access at low cost and high quality, and get patients to primary care,” she said. If the patient has a primary care provider, the physician will receive a copy of the MinuteClinic record. Patients who don’t have one will receive a list of local providers in the community.

Patients don’t like taking time off from work to see a doctor, so the clinics provide them with a convenient alternative. “It's also an extension of primary care without costing a lot of money,” Gagliano said.

CVS is in the process of integrating its electronic medical records with affiliated practices and systems so that physicians have quick access to the record of the visit. The integration also will allow MinuteClinic staff to pull up the patient’s medical record to view allergies and prescribed medications.

Source: FierceHealthcare; May 5, 2015.

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