May 17 2014, 12:36pm CDT | by Forbes
Hospitals and health systems are negotiating more clinical deals with retailers like CVS/Caremark (CVS) and Walgreen (WAG) as traditional providers of medical care work to capture more health care dollars from newly insured Americans under the Affordable Care Act.
Increasingly, the giant drugstore chains, Wal-Mart (WMT) and even some grocers like Kroger (KR) and Safeway (SWY) are trying to integrate their pharmacy businesses into patient-centered medical homes or become part of accountable care organizations, or ACOs, which link medical care providers to improve quality of medical care. The idea is to improve health outcomes and ACOs need pharmacists or retail health clinics to do that given their historic access to patients at the pharmacy counter.
In the latest of the growing number of such deals, CVS this week signed new clinical affiliations with four health systems including Memorial Health in Georgia and Lahey Health in Massachusetts. That brings the total number of clinical affiliations for CVS/Caremark and its Minute Clinic subsidiary to 36 health systems across the country, including Cleveland Clinic and Henry Ford Health System.
“We look forward to working with these health systems to develop collaborative programs that improve patient outcomes, lower costs and help people on their path to better health,” CVS/Caremark chief medical officer Dr. Troyen Brennan said in a statement accompanying the pharmacy chain’s announcement. “Through these clinical affiliations, we will also be integrating our electronic medical records and information systems to enable us to support patients with medication counseling and chronic disease monitoring.”
Meanwhile, recent partnerships Walgreen has engineered bring that retail pharmacy giant’s clinical affiliations with health systems to 20, including Ochsner in New Orleans and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
The pharmacies bring to the table retail clinics staffed by advanced degree nurses known as nurse practitioners that treat routine maladies like strep throat and pink eye. In addition, the pharmacies are getting their pharmacists more involved in patient care by collaborating with health systems on joint clinical programs and “care coordination activities,” CVS says.
Retailers also increasingly see themselves as a primary care option, particularly given a shortage of primary care physicians that is expected to only worsen with millions more Americans getting health benefits under the Affordable Care Act in January.
With the ACOS, these entities rely heavily on outreach to patients via primary care doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists like those at CVS and Walgreen that help patients adhere to their prescriptions, stay healthy and out of the more expensive hospital.
“These collaborations give Walgreens and Healthcare Clinic an opportunity to further support and complement provider practices and patients’ medical homes, offering expanded access, convenient locations and hours, and a broad range of services, including those for treatment and management of certain chronic conditions,” says Dr. Jeff Kang, Walgreens senior vice president of health and wellness. “More and more providers are recognizing the value we provide as a strategic health care partner, and the important role our pharmacists and nurse practitioners can play in supporting continuity of care and working collaboratively to help improve patient outcomes.”
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