By Jim Frederick, Senior Editor/Pharmacy, Drug Store News
New, holistic models for integrated, patient-centered care are emerging from the fog of health reform almost as fast as you can say “accountable care organization.” But pharmacy and retail clinic operators aren’t waiting for ACOs to fully ripen; they’re forging new alliances with hospital-based health systems and building the kind of continuity-of-care networks that could be a template for the new era of evidence-based medicine and improved patient outcomes.
If anything going on in health care traces the changes that are transforming the health system — attacking the unsustainable cost curve and dramatically improving patients’ access to care — it’s the accelerating growth of partnerships between hospital-based health systems and retail pharmacies and pharmacy-centered clinics.
It makes perfect sense. Both community pharmacies and the roughly 1,400 in-store clinics now open are evolving quickly beyond their traditional practice models with a broader menu of health-and-wellness services.
That makes them ideal extensions of hospital-based care, providing cheaper and more accessible points of entry into a local or regional health system for patients in need of basic diagnostic services and front-line care.
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals noted in a report on retail clinics: “The demand for health care is steadily growing as the population ages and increases, creating some strain on often overworked hospitals and physician practices.”
Retail clinics, BI noted, provide “a way of addressing this issue.”
Community pharmacists can play an equally critical role. With more and more chains and independents giving pharmacists the tools and training to practice “at the top of their license,” pharmacies allied with hospitals provide a slew of services that improve patients’ long-term health and reduce readmission rates — including preventive health services, disease management and monitoring, screenings, medication therapy management, counseling and adherence programs.
In a report in the online publication Payers & Providers, Jim Lott, EVP of the Hospital Association of Southern California, called such alliances…
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