With people seeking more convenient and affordable health care options, Rite Aid Corp. is pushing ahead with a "virtual clinic" offering.


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More Rite Aid stores offer 'virtual clinic'

March 1st, 2013
NowClinic Online Care enables patients to engage in live video, chat or phone consultations with doctors.

CAMP HILL, Pa. – With people seeking more convenient and affordable health care options, Rite Aid Corp. is pushing ahead with a "virtual clinic" offering.

The drug chain said Friday that NowClinic Online Care services, provided in tandem with OptumHealth, have been rolled out to 58 Rite Aid pharmacies in Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Rite Aid helped pioneer the virtual clinic in a retail pharmacy setting in the fall of 2011, when it teamed up with OptumHealth to introduce NowClinic Online Care services in nine Detroit pharmacies.

Powered by telehealth technology from Boston-based American Well, NowClinic Online Care provides real-time access to medical care, information and resources from doctors and Optum nurses.

In private consultation rooms, customers can engage in one-on-one consultations via secure video, chat or phone with doctors, who can discuss symptoms, provide guidance, diagnose and prescribe medications. They can also interact with OptumHealth nurses, who can provide basic health education and information on common acute issues plus identify health provider options. A customer record is automatically captured for each session and can be shared immediately with a primary care provider.

Rite Aid pharmacy staff are available to help people use the system and biometric devices, such as an ear thermometer, a scale and a blood pressure cuff. The service also is available anytime at myNowClinic.com/RiteAid, which Rite Aid noted is especially convenient when customers aren't able to go to a doctor's office or their physician's office or local Rite Aid isn't open.

Conversations with nurses are free, and a 10-minute consultation with a doctor is $45.

"Given the rapidly changing health care landscape, we believe that telehealth services, such as our NowClinic Online Care service, will play an extremely important role in healthcare of the future," Rite Aid executive vice president of pharmacy Robert Thompson said in a statement.

"Rite Aid's NowClinic Online Care services provide customers with convenient, affordable and efficient access to medical care, whenever and wherever they need it," Thompson stated. "We are excited to bring NowClinic Online Care services to our customers in these markets as part of our continued mission to help them live healthier, happier lives."

Rite Aid also uses the American Well platform for Rite Aid Online Care, service that provides live consultations with a Rite Aid pharmacist via the Internet.

By embracing the virtual model, Rite Aid is taking a different approach to the drug store clinic than rivals Walgreen Co. and CVS Caremark Corp., which dominate the retail health clinic space and aim to step up openings of new facilities in their stores. Pharmacy operators of all stripes have been broadening their roster of basic health services in anticipation of the millions of Americans slated to gain health insurance coverage next year under the Affordable Care Act.

Walgreens' Take Care Health Systems subsidiary has more than 360 Take Care Clinic locations, while CVS' MinuteClinic has over 600 locations inside CVS/pharmacy stores. Both operators also have steadily expanded their menu of services, from basic care for common illnesses, injuries and ailments to a broad range of immunizations and preventive health care screenings.

In addition, Walgreens and CVS executives have indicated that the financial model of retail clinics is taking shape and starting to become a viable business in itself, rather than just a traffic generator for the pharmacy.

Walgreens, too, is leveraging the American Well technology in partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) to provide telehealth services to thousands of BCBSNC employees in North Carolina. Announced last October, the service — called OnlineCareNC — enables BCBSNC employees from home or work to get a health care consultation from Take Care Health System nurse practitioners, health coaches or nutritionists via two-way video, secure text chat or phone.

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