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Retail Healthcare Options Springing Forward

This past Sunday we all turned our clocks forward an hour in observance of Daylight Savings Time. While it may be frustrating for some to lose an hour of sleep, it is a harbinger of the end of winter and an exciting reminder that spring is right around the corner. As cities all over the country begin to shake off the snow and embrace a more active lifestyle, there is no better time to consider making a few healthy changes. The widespread emergence of health clinics and telemedicine as alternatives to hospitals is making it easier than ever for Americans to access affordable healthcare. With major retailers like Whole Foods and Target poised to join CVS and Walgreens in actively providing care, the retail healthcare market is evolving in a major way.

Whole Foods founder and co-CEO John Mackey recently announced his intention to install health clinics in grocery stores. Open to employees and customers, you can speak with practitioners about minor health concerns or chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. In a system where the sheer amount of forms patients must fill out is overwhelming, the wait times staggering, and the insurance policies baffling, healthcare providers such as Novant Health and Kaiser Permanente are taking notice. Both Novant and Kaiser will be partnering with Target to open in-store walk-in clinics staffed by Target-employed nurse practitioners and overseen by Norvant/Kaiser doctors. Walmart is already working with DirectHealth.com to staff insurance agents in over 60% of stores in order to make it easier for consumers to access and navigate their healthcare options.

While there has been some pushback from small segments of the medical community, retail clinics seem to be moving healthcare forward in a way that benefits private companies by allowing them to offer additional services to their customers; hospitals and emergency rooms by allowing them to focus on the patients with more serious illnesses and conditions; and most importantly, the general public by making basic and preventative care more convenient and affordable. Rather than being hit with surprise medical bills after a half-day trip to the ER for relatively minor injuries, wouldn’t you rather stop in at CVS or Walgreens to be treated quickly at a fraction of the cost?

As retail clinics become omnipresent, telemedicine will play a key role in providing patients with continuous care. Telemedicine providers deliver care virtually and therefore will rely heavily on retail clinics for things like bio-sample procurement and the dispensation of medication. These services are able to provide primary care and specialist referrals, conduct remote patient monitoring, and even educate consumers with medical information. Healthcare can be delivered through networked programs, point-to-point connections, monitoring center links, and web-based e-health patient service sites.  By linking the services of retail clinics and telemedicine providers, more Americans will have improved access to more cost effective healthcare, especially in rural areas.

All of these changes mean that we will be spending fewer hours to make a more meaningful impact on our health. These are changes to be welcomed:  we’ve already lost one hour this weekend; we shouldn’t plan on losing any more.

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