It’s all about convenience and offering consumers multiple services at a single location. That’s why certain clinical laboratory tests will soon be offered at CVS Health Minute Clinics

As predicted, operators of rapid clinics located in retail pharmacies and other retail stories are adding additional clinical services. In the case of CVS Health, it recently announced plans to add certain clinical laboratory testing services to its Minute Clinic locations.

Consumer demand is driving these decisions. After all, who doesn’t want to save time and money these days? Combining errands into as few trips as possible means getting more at each location. This imperative drove big-box stores Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) to combine their household lines with grocery products all under one roof, and customers loved it!

Thus, it was no surprise when pharmacy chains got in on the act by adding rapid care clinics to retail stores that already included health and beauty products, pharmaceuticals, and limited grocery items. This important trend has been written about by Dark Daily in previous e-briefings.

Now, during a second quarter earnings call, CVS Health revealed that they plan to expand their offerings at Minute Clinic locations to include services intended to help consumers manage chronic health conditions. The move could be considered part of the same trend—providing customers with more options at each visit. However, there’s more to it. The new services aim at empowering chronic disease suffers through population health management tools. For patients and caregivers of chronic disease patients, this could be quite beneficial.

But how will this impact medical laboratories and pathology groups, when patients realize they can employ tools that monitor their chronic conditions at convenient locations where they can likely fulfill other needs as well? Might this impinge on revenues from tests and specimen gathering procedures traditionally performed at clinical laboratories?

Demand for Low-Cost Quality Care Driving Growth in Retail Clinics

There are currently more than 1,100 Minute Clinics located inside CVS stores in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I., CVS expects an escalation in the need for their Minute Clinic services due to:

·       A shortage of primary care physicians;

·       An increase in chronic diseases; and

·       The aging US population.

CVS Health’s initial service offerings will help diabetes patients:

·       Monitor glucose levels;

·       Adhere to medication schedules, and,

·       Modify their lifestyles through education.

During the next two years, CVS plans to add similar services at their Minute Clinic locations for other chronic conditions, including:

·   Asthma;

·   Depression;

·  Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol); and,

·   Hypertension.

The Minute Clinics operate seven days a week, with half of their patients seen in the evenings and weekends—times when most traditional medical offices are closed. CVS Health plans to open an additional 150 Minute Clinic locations within the next year.

Patients waiting to be seen by nurse practitioner Marti Wolfson (right) at a Minute Clinic in La Mesa, CA. CVS announced that it will introduce certain clinical laboratory testing services to its chain of rapid care clinics located in CVS retail pharmacies. (Photo copyright: San Diego Union Tribune/John Gastaldo.)

According to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Manatt Health Solutions, there are more than 1,800 retail clinics in the United States and CVS Minute Clinics hold more than 50% of the market. Access to walk-in appointments, convenience, extended hours of service, lower costs, and having no primary source of care are the most common reasons given by people who utilize services at the clinics.

“Patients are looking for easy access to care, good quality, and low cost,” Andrew Sussman, President, Minute Clinic, told the Boston Globe. “That’s part of what’s making us so successful.”

Retail clinics account for 10.5 million healthcare visits annually, which represent about 2% of primary care encounters in the country. The number of retail clinics in the US increased by 900% between 2006 and 2014 and is expected to continue to climb.

According to AMN Healthcare research, the most common reasons for visits to the clinics include:

·       Diagnosis and treatment of new illnesses and symptoms;

·       Vaccinations;

·       Prescription renewals; and,

·       Basic health screenings.

Other major players in the retail clinic industry include Walgreens Healthcare Clinic, Kroger Little Clinic, Walmart Retail Clinic, and Rite Aid RediClinic.

VA Now Referring Vets to Retail Clinics in Phoenix Area

In April, CVS Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and TriWest Healthcare Alliance joined forces to improve access to health services for veterans in the Phoenix area. This initiative allows healthcare professionals at the Phoenix VA to refer veterans to Minute Clinic for minor health conditions.

“This new public-private collaboration between CVS, TriWest, and the VA is an important step forward in enhancing choice and flexibility in veterans’ healthcare,” Senator John McCain noted in a CVS Health press release. “I’ve long believed that veterans in need of routine healthcare services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like Minute Clinic to receive timely and convenient care.”

Because of this collaboration, 120,000 veterans living in the Phoenix area may now receive care, when appropriate, at the 24 Minute Clinic locations in the metropolitan area.

“Our number one priority is getting veterans access to care when and where they need it. The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods,” stated Baligh Yehia, MD, MPP, MSc, in the CVS Health press release. Yehia is Senior Medical Director at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Deputy Undersecretary for Health at the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

As retail clinics become more popular a growing number of medical laboratory test samples that traditionally came from office-based physicians may originate from these clinics. Clinical laboratory outreach, physician support, and patient education programs have never been more critical.

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

CVS Expanding Minute Clinic Chronic Disease Programs

Phoenix VA Healthcare System, TriWest, and CVS Health Partner to Increase Veteran Access to Healthcare Services

CVS Health (CVS) Q2 2017 Results – Earnings Call Transcript

The Value Proposition of Retail Clinics

Convenient Care: Growth and Staffing Trends in Urgent Care and Retail Medicine

Walk-in Clinics Force Big Medicine to Rethink

Five Reasons Why Retail Clinics Are a “Game-Changing” Threat to Traditional Healthcare Providers That Could Strain Clinical Laboratories and Pathologists

Retail Clinics Are Poised to Offer More Health Services, Participate in ACOS, and Offer Expanded Menu of Clinical Pathology Laboratory Tests