Patients Take Control with Retail Health Care

Patients Take Control with Retail Health Care

Retail Health Clinics, Self-Care with OTC Meds, and Pharmacist Counseling Often Replace Primary Care Physicians

If you experience difficulty getting timely access to your doctor, you’re not alone. A Commonwealth Fund Survey reports that 73% of Americans feel the same way.

Patients Take Control with Retail Health Care

Over the last two decades, several market forces have aligned to bring health care to retail environments and more control to patients. Let’s explore the world of retail health care, where patients are also customers.

Retail Health Clinics

In 2000, Rick Krieger founded what would become Minute Clinic. In the ensuing 18 years, retail health care locations have multiplied to 2,300 in over 40 states and 35 million patient visits.

Carol Kelly, CEO of Kelly Advocacy Outcomes and Health Policy and Management Adjunct Professor at George Washington University defines these clinics in her class Wellness on the Corner: Retail Healthcare:

“It’s a location within a retail store, staffed generally by nurse practitioners or physician assistants with a limited service menu, protocol-directed diagnostics, and extended hours.”

These clinics treat a variety of low-acuity illnesses, like:

  • Immunizations
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Ear/eye infections
  • Screenings (e.g., blood pressure)
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Pharyngitis

The extended hours and availability of retail health clinics are appealing to convenience-driven patients. Rand Corporation offers other key findings from its report, “The Evolving Role of Retail Clinics:”

Patients Take Control with Retail Health Care

Self-Care with OTC Medications

In many cases, patients don’t seek the care of healthcare professionals for ailments they believe can be treated by over-the-counter medications. Again, these are low-acuity issues such as cold, flu, seasonal allergies, pain relief or stomach relief. Kelly’s Wellness on the Corner report states:

“There are 80 therapeutic categories of OTC medications readily available in a retail setting. These include common cold, allergies, heartburn, mild pain, dental cures, smoking cessation, weight loss, emergency contraception, digestive disorders. In addition, there are now over 700 OTC products on the market with ingredients or dosages once only available with a prescription.”

With more medications available without a prescription, it only makes sense that patients are turning to themselves as the expert.

Pharmacies Abound in Our Retail Landscape

There are 50,000 pharmacy locations and almost 300,000 pharmacists in the United States. Since patients encounter pharmacies and pharmacists in their regular routines, they increasingly turn to pharmacists for advice. As retail health care becomes more popular, it makes sense that pharmacists will continue to evolve from medication dispensing to more involved patient care.

Electronic Health Records Democratize Access to Patients’ Health History

Only a decade ago, 90% of physicians kept records on paper. Now, 90% use Electronic Health Records (EHRs). According to the Office of National Coordinator in 2014, depending on the state, e-prescriptions though EHRs account for 48% – 100% of all prescriptions.

Depending on the EHR system, a patient’s records could be accessed by the patients themselves, retail health clinics and pharmacists to provide a more comprehensive history that allows better care and advice. EHRs are another reason patients are taking control with retail healthcare.

Evidence shows that younger patients are more open and accepting of healthcare in a retail setting (although older generations also participate). This is a trend that will continue. When patients are also customers, and care and consultations are thought of in context with shopping, we are sure to see many changes in healthcare.

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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