Walgreen Co.'s Take Care Health Systems subsidiary is trumpeting research showing that alternative sites for health care — including retail clinics and urgent care centers — could alleviate overcrowded emergency rooms and save the nation's health care system billions of dollars.


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Retail News Breaks Archives

Research turns spotlight on need for retail clinics

November 1st, 2010

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. – Walgreen Co.'s Take Care Health Systems subsidiary is trumpeting research showing that alternative sites for health care — including retail clinics and urgent care centers — could alleviate overcrowded emergency rooms and save the nation's health care system billions of dollars.

The company said Monday that according to new research published in the September issue of the health care journal Health Affairs, between 13.7% and 27.1% of emergency department visits, or up to one in four visits, could take place at retail clinics or urgent care facilities, with a potential cost savings of $4.4 billion annually.

What's more, the research indicates that health clinics such as Take Care Clinics, situated in select Walgreens drug stores, have been shown to save patients $279 to $460 a visit compared with emergency department costs.

Take Care noted that a second study in the September Health Affairs found that only 42% of the 354 million annual visits for acute care are made to patients' personal physicians. The company explained that as the primary care doctor shortage increases, retail clinics can reduce some of the pressure by treating more patients in nonemergency situations at a lower cost than other settings, while also helping to advocate for patients who need to be connected to the health care system.

"This research reaffirms the need for alternative sites of care to help ease the pressure of overcrowded emergency departments and long wait times that are often necessary to get an appointment with patients' primary care providers," stated Hal Rosenbluth, senior vice president at Walgreens, president of the Walgreens Health and Wellness division and co-founder of Take Care Health Systems.

"The fact that $4.4 billion could be saved by utilizing options like Take Care Clinics and other retail and urgent care clinics is a wake-up call to patients, employers and health plans that money spent on health care can be better allocated to help ease the pressure on an already burdened system. We have always believed that Take Care Clinics were an important part of the solution to the health care crisis in the U.S., but this research, along with Take Care Clinics' record of high-quality care, makes this point more poignantly than ever."

Take Care Health Systems reported that the Health Affairs article looked at data provided by retail clinics and urgent care centers in 2007 and compared it to emergency department visit data in 2006. The researchers used a list of health conditions commonly treated at retail clinics and urgent care centers to determine the number of visits that could have been treated at alternative sites. The study found that 13.7% of emergency room visits could take place at a retail clinic and another 13.4% of visits could take place at an urgent care center, for a combined total of 27.1%. The researchers lowered this estimate to 16.8% when taking into account hours that retail clinics and urgent care centers are open.

Earlier this month, the American Journal of Medical Quality published a study from the Jefferson School of Population Health showing that the quality of care delivered in Take Care clinics for treatment of pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat) and upper respiratory infections meets or exceeds the quality of the care delivered in other settings. And in August, Retail Clinician published a report from Gallup highlighting the patient experience at Take Care clinics. The study has found that Take Care clinics rank among the top 10% of all organizations globally in engaging their customers.

"Take Care Clinics were designed to offer patients high-quality care in a simple and easy fashion," Sandra Ryan, chief nurse practitioner officer for Take Care Health Systems, said in a statement. "We are playing an integral role in health care reform by providing an entry into the health care system for many Americans through both our retail clinics as well as our work-site health centers. By offering quality health care where people live and work, Take Care Health Systems is improving the lives of our patients, connecting them within the existing health care community and reducing the burden on the health care system as a whole. This trend could continue as health plans and employers explore ways to encourage patients to utilize retail clinics more frequently instead of making trips to the emergency department."

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