Access to health care services is an ongoing challenge to the U.S. health care system. With a physician shortage, aging population, a growing prevalence of chronic diseases and up to 30 million people projected to gain insurance coverage in 2014 through the Affordable Care Act, the issue will become even more critical – and may further impact both patients and the health care system at large.
To help meet the need for greater access to affordable health services and bridge gaps in patient care, while also improving care coordination, Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) (Nasdaq:WAG) today announced its Take Care Clinics are expanding the scope of health care services offered. The new services, now available at the more than 330 Take Care Clinics located at select Walgreens (excludes clinics in Missouri), include assessment, treatment and management for chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma and others, as well as additional preventive health services.
“With this service expansion, Take Care Clinics now provide the most comprehensive service offering within the retail clinic industry, and can play an even more valuable role in helping patients get, stay and live well,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kang, senior vice president of health and wellness services and solutions, Walgreens. “Through greater access to services and a broader focus on disease prevention and chronic condition management, our clinics can connect and work with physicians and other providers to better help support the increasing demands on our health care system today.”
Under the new service expansion, in addition to chronic condition management, Take Care Clinic providers can evaluate, recommend and order preventive health services, such as screenings or lab tests, based on a patient’s age, gender and family history.
Retail clinics have continued to gain greater consumer acceptance, popularity and recognition for delivering quality care. A recent Rand Corporation study showed the use of walk-in retail clinics is on the rise – increasing 10-fold over the past two years.1 Studies have also found that retail clinics provide care for routine illnesses at a lower cost and similar quality as physician offices, urgent care centers or emergency rooms.2
Retail clinic industry estimates show that more than one in three patients do not have a regular physician.3 Walgreens and Take Care Health strongly encourage all patients to have a designated primary care physician and medical home for ongoing medical needs and routine exams, and under this new service expansion will continue to work collaboratively with providers to support and complement a patient’s physician care plan.
“The existing gaps in patient care and demands on an already overburdened health care system are all projected to worsen with an influx of new patients under health care reform,” said Heather Helle, divisional vice president, consumer solutions group, Walgreens. “Walgreens is stepping up to be part of the solution. As innovative care delivery models emerge, we are uniquely positioned to play an integral role in addressing the needs of patients, payers, and providers and to help shape the future of health care delivery in the U.S.”
Take Care Clinics are open seven days a week, with extended evening and weekend hours, and offer walk-in availability as well as same-day online appointment scheduling. Take Care Clinics accept most major insurance plans including Medicare and Medicaid, and offer affordable, transparent pricing for those without insurance coverage. Take Care’s board-certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants deliver patient-centric care, driving patient satisfaction rates that are consistently greater than 90 percent. Take Care providers use nationally accepted, evidence-based clinical guidelines to ensure quality care delivery.
“Our goal is to coordinate with physicians in order to help patients manage their chronic conditions in alignment with their physician’s treatment plan,” said Alan E. London, chief medical officer, Take Care Clinics. “Walgreens and Take Care Health also continue to develop clinical affiliations with leading health systems to coordinate patient care and to help meet the triple aim of improving health outcomes and patient satisfaction while reducing health care costs.”
Clinical Affiliations Further Walgreens Efforts to Coordinate and Improve Patient Care
Clinical affiliations are aimed at increasing opportunities for clinical coordination and improving patient access to health care services available at Take Care Clinics. Through these programs, professionals from the health systems share information on Take Care Clinics and other health care options when their locations are closed or unable to schedule an appointment within a patient’s desired timeframe.
“In a post-ACA environment, managing the health of broad populations is going to increasingly require coordination among partners across the spectrum of care,” said David B. Nash, founding dean, Jefferson School of Population Health in Philadelphia. “I have long been an advocate of the retail clinic model. Take Care Health’s expansion of services and ongoing formation of clinical affiliations with leading health systems represents the direction health care is trending and the type of innovation that will be the key to improving outcomes and increasing access.”
“One of our key goals is to improve access and care for patients,” said Tim Hobbs, M.D., chief physician executive at Community Health Network in Indianapolis. “Through our relationship with Walgreens, we are bringing new thinking to local health care delivery and helping to ensure that patients are receiving the best care at the best location. We look forward to enhancing our relationship to find other unique ways to improve the patient experience.”
As the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2012 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) vision is to become America’s first choice for health and daily living. Each day, Walgreens provides more than 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. The company operates 8,077 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.