Major retailers bet that consumers are ready to get their regular medical care at the drugstore

Reinforcing their commitment to consumer healthcare, national pharmacy chain CVS Caremark recently announced that they will cease selling cigarettes. Representatives for the retail chain said that carrying tobacco products was inconsistent with their overarching mission to improve customers’ health.

The announcement has received nearly universal praise from community healthcare officials, along with renewed awareness that even more consumer choices are on the way — as well as more competition among healthcare providers.

CVS Caremark estimates it will take an annual loss of $2 billion from tobacco shoppers. The retailer’s decision to take a significant financial loss indicates their seriousness about further expansion into the healthcare services market. Currently CVS operates approximately 800 Minute Clinics. The Walgreen’s pharmacy chain also operates approximately 400 Healthcare Clinics throughout the US. And let’s not forget about all the urgent-care centers, worksite clinics and other retail-based care centers whose numbers are firmly on the rise.

It could be said that in-store clinics are only building on the services that many neighborhood pharmacists have long provided, such as advice on OTC medications for cold and flu, help managing chronic conditions like diabetes, and recommendations on who to see for further treatment.

Today’s in-store healthcare clinics have evolved to offer a further level of healthcare, including testing and vaccination, treatment of minor wounds and common family ailments, along with routine wellness exams. Many of these new clinics are staffed by Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners, in addition to RN’s — and have ready access to Pharmacists’ expertise.

Although the in-store/urgent care healthcare category is growing rapidly, the most successful models have yet to be determined. Some of these healthcare providers are owned by insurance companies; some operate with strict limitations as to recommending further care; still others have formal connections with outside medical providers. CVS in particular has pursued closer ties with hospital networks. It has agreements with 26, including the prestigious Cleveland Clinic.

The Economist notes that Walgreens has tried another approach, partnering with three accountable care organizations, in a Medicare pilot program that rewards networks of doctors and hospitals for providing good care at competitive prices.

Perhaps your organization is preparing to compete with this growing category of healthcare provider — or perhaps you are expanding into this type of care yourself. Either way, more care providers means more demand for healthcare professionals, in particular RN’s with advanced practice skills. If you’re looking for ways to expand your talent search, a VMS like Candidate Direct could be an essential element in your healthcare staffing toolkit.

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