Large retail companies like Walmart, Walgreens and CVS are increasingly offering healthcare services at their locations across the U.S. as well as online.
During an Oct. 8 session at the Becker’s Healthcare Health IT + Revenue Cycle Virtual Event, Ashish Atreja, MD, chief innovation officer in the department of medicine and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and Pamela Gallagher, interim CFO of Baptist Health Hardin in Elizabethtown, Ky., answered the question: Are Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and other retail clinics good or bad for health systems?
“I feel they are good for healthcare and that should be our North Star,” said Dr. Atreja. “Whether it is good or bad for health systems is the organization’s perspective. We love our health systems dearly and want to vouch for them. We know health is different than health systems and there are other entities which can deliver some aspects of healthcare better. We need to be open to that [idea]. From a healthcare perspective and from a consumer choice and consumer access to care perspective, this definitely is a good trend for these organizations to have health clinics.”
While hospitals and health networks have mastered disease treatment, surgery and cancer care, Dr. Atreja said there is room for improvement in disease prevention, chronic disease management, wellness and behavioral health. Retail clinics have a big opportunity to capitalize on the consumer demand for those services and streamlining care delivery.
“There is an overlap between that wellness and what we do in preventative health that there is going to be some potentially subtle cannibalization,” said Dr. Atreja. “But I see this also could be a great way for innovative health systems to get partnerships and try to [deliver continuous care] within the community.”
Ms. Gallagher agreed with Dr. Atreja and noted that strategically placed Walmart stores in some rural locations are more accessible and efficient than health centers.
“We’ll still need hospitals for procedures, but as far as [disease] prevention and access to care, I think [retail clinics] are a great thing for healthcare,” she said.
She also noted the shift in care could negatively impact the hospital’s bottom line because it would shift away services.
While Walmart and other retail clinics continue to proliferate, Ms. Gallagher said she hasn’t seen rural hospitals adjust their strategy.
“We need to see more partnerships that lower the overall cost of care, but also, not every little critical access hospital needs to be doing what they’re doing,” she said.
Instead, rural healthcare facilities can evolve to focus on core services to maintain a healthy financial organization.
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