It’s an interesting statement about how CVS, the national pharmacy chain, believes it can expand its MinuteClinic health services while also integrating data feeds with HIEs

In another demonstration of how fast healthcare is transforming, the pharmacy chain CVS Caremark Corp. will implement the Epic electronic medical record system (EMR) in its MinuteClinic sites nationwide. This means MinuteClinic clinicians will be using the same EMR as a growing number of hospitals and office-based physicians.

What may make this development noteworthy for pathologists and clinical laboratory managers is that use of the EpicCare EMR system sold by Epic Systems Corp. of Verona, Wisconsin, is that MinuteClinic sites will make it easier for CVS to pass clinical data it gathers to regional health information exchanges (HIEs).

Similarly, where CVS has a relationship with local health systems, use of the EPIC EMR can enable a two-way flow of patient data between MinuteClinics, hospitals, and physicians in the community.

CVS Will Expand the Number of Minute Clinic Sites to 1,500 by 2017

CVS has ambitious plans for MinuteClinic. First, it aims to replace its homegrown electronic health record system (EHR) with EpicCare’s EMR. Second, CVS announced that it will expand the number of MinuteClinic sites nationally from 800 today to 1,500 by 2017. The company revealed these plans in a press release.

The transition from a home-grown EHR to the EpicCare EMR is expected to take about 18 months. By adopting Epic—touted by some experts as the most widely used EMR in the United States—CVS MinuteClinic says it will be in a better position to:

1) develop range and sophistication of its healthcare services;

2) originate clinical data and share it with other providers; and,

3) receive information from other providers using Epic.

CVS MinuteClinic Has a Vision for Adding Healthcare Services

Pathologists and laboratory managers may view CVS MinuteClinic’s progress and future plans in a couple ways. For example, CVS MinuteClinic’s new EMR—once live—may allow its clinicians to interact with medical laboratories in ways that support seamless care for people, as they transition along the continuum.

For its part, CVS MinuteClinic, with its nationwide branding power, is pushing forward with its vision of providing a richer menu of healthcare services within the walls of its retail pharmacies. Whether this vision includes the eventual addition of clinical laboratory services in its pharmacies remains to be seen.

Not Just a Place for Blood Pressure Checks: CVS MinuteClinic Is Expanding

MinuteClinic sites are walk-in medical clinics within CVS pharmacies that are staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They provide treatment for common illnesses and injuries, administer vaccinations and physicals, and offer routine lab tests (in conjunction with other services), according to the company’s website.

By inking its deal with Epic, CVS MinuteClinic is showing a “growing maturity of its concept as it moves beyond flu vaccinations and blood pressure readings to provide more non-emergency care,” noted a MedCity News story. “This is one of the healthcare industry trends to reduce healthcare costs by providing alternatives to hospitals or the doctor’s office.”

Nancy Gagliano, M.D. (pictured above), is CVS MinuteClinic’s Chief Medical Officer. CVS Caremark Corp. has 800 MinuteClinic locations in 28 states. The company anticipates nearly doubling its sites to 1,500 by 2017. (Photo copyright by CVS Caremark Corp.)

Nancy Gagliano, M.D. (pictured above), is CVS MinuteClinic’s Chief Medical Officer. CVS Caremark Corp. has 800 MinuteClinic locations in 28 states. The company anticipates nearly doubling its sites to 1,500 by 2017. (Photo copyright by CVS Caremark Corp.)

“In our own way, MinuteClinic is a whale,” stated Nancy Gagliano, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at CVS MinuteClinic. “We need a robust IT system and an EHR that will effectively interconnect with our affiliated partners. We’re going to have over 1,500 clinics in just a couple of years. We see four million patients a year, and we’ll see 10 million patients a year in the near future. So we need a big company to support the volume that we’ll have.” Gagliano’s comments were published in a story published by Modern Healthcare.

Epic’s Market Share Was a Factor in CVS’ Decision

In further explaining its choice, CVS MinuteClinic pointed to the system’s popularity among healthcare systems, networks and physician groups that already partner with Epic. About 274,000 physicians use Epic’s EMR. Also, approximately 51% of the U.S. population will eventually have a record in the Epic EMR system, CVS MinuteClinic pointed out.

CVS MinuteClinic staffers will tap Epic’s Care Everywhere and Care Elsewhere tools, according to Modern Healthcare. The former works as a HIE between Epic customers. And Care Elsewhere reportedly makes interoperability happen between Epic systems and other non-Epic providers or health information exchanges.

Meanwhile, Epic Has Its Own Growth Strategy

For its part, Epic appears to be focusing on customers other than large hospitals, noted a story published by EMR & EHR. “Not only is Epic rolling out a large ambulatory deal with MinuteClinic, the EMR vendor struck a deal with the Cleveland Clinic and Dell under which the Clinic and Dell offer providers EMR consulting installation configuration and hosting service for Epic.”

The message in these developments is that CVS is just the latest retail pharmacy chain to take steps to expand healthcare services it provides within the walls of its retail stores. If CVS is planning on serving 10 million people per year with it MinuteClinics, then it is possible that better integration with EPIC’s EMR system and clinical laboratories in different communities will become necessary.

—By Donna Marie Pocius

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