It is becoming increasingly common to encounter new outlets for healthcare delivery within retail pharmacies, big box stores, supermarkets, etc. This phenomenon is not occurring by happenstance. We often hear there is a growing shortage of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Now, this shortage is likely to be magnified by the large number of newly insured patients entering the market as a result of the Affordable Care Act. These patients will need new places to seek care and new types of healthcare professionals to care for them.
One site of care that is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for patients is the retail clinic, due to the convenience and quality of service for basic healthcare needs. When we examine the average cost of a minor illness visit across different sites of care, we see that retail clinics provide a viable and cost-effective alternative:
- Retail clinic: $76
- Physician visit: $120
- Urgent care: $121
- Emergency room: $499
Given the reduced burden on the system, we can expect that healthcare delivery will continue to migrate outside of traditional physician and hospital channels, to non-traditional, lower-cost venues like retail clinics. In fact, the number of retail clinics is estimated to grow 25% to 30% annually to almost 2,900 by 2015. But who is primarily responsible for providing care in these locations?
Most often it is pharmacists who play a very active role in delivering care. They have expanded their role beyond drug dispensing to include medication reviews, providing education materials, administering vaccinations, and more. Furthermore, they are well-positioned to continue to expand their influence on patient care.
As marketers, we should closely examine the potential role pharmacy could play to improve the quality and cost efficiency of healthcare delivery. As one of the key patient-facing allied healthcare professionals, they should be supported with education and tools that go far beyond their traditional focus on drug dosing and dispensing. Pharmacists have training and access to data that uniquely position them to help improve the patient’s journey from the first prescription after diagnosis, through ongoing adherent treatment, to chronic disease management and/or recovery.
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