Care delivery has been evolving in recent years, driven by an increase in patient consumerism and major events such as the Covid-19 pandemic. One new development that has the potential to significantly impact primary care practices is the rise of the retail care site. Read on to learn more about these clinics, how they can impact your practice, and how you can overcome these impacts.
What are retail care sites?
Retail care sites are clinics located in retail stores, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, and big box stores. By design, these clinics are meant to address minor, acute issues, such as simple injuries and illnesses, colds, fevers, rashes, and minor cuts. Because retail care sites are usually staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, without a board-certified physician on site, there are limitations to the conditions they can treat and the care they can provide.
Patients are often attracted to retail care sites by the extended evening and weekend hours, shorter wait times, and walk-in availability. Most often, these clinics bridge the gap between primary care and an emergency room visit at times that primary care is unavailable. Retail clinics also provide vaccines and other minor preventive care. Another attractive facet of these clinics to patients is that pricing is typically transparent and fixed, so patients can be aware of the impact of their visit and not be blind-sided with an unexpected bill.
How Retails Care Sites Can Impact Your Practice
While there is some overlap in the services rendered at both retail clinics and primary care practices, they are not equal and can co-exist with each serving its purpose. There is some risk, though, that due to the convenience of retail clinics some patients could begin using those sites for more services that they would otherwise see their primary care provider for. This would not only pull revenue from the patient’s primary care provider, but also impact the patient’s continuity of care with their PCP.
Another way practices, and patients for that matter, are impacted is that when patients begin visiting retail clinics over their primary care provider, a reduction in preventive care can be observed. This occurs because it’s traditionally a patient’s PCP that advises they have preventive screenings done during other appointments. This lack of preventive care can lead to diminished health outcomes.
When visits for simple, acute illnesses are handled by retail clinics, primary care practices can be left with only more complex cases. This can translate to fewer patients being seen, higher stress, and possibly lower reimbursement for each day. This can also contribute to provider burnout which is already a large problem.
Finally, providers can be left with gaps in their patients’ records when their patients use retail clinics frequently. Typically, the patient’s record from a retail clinic visit isn’t shared with their primary care practice. This is especially problematic if the patient needs to seek additional care for the same illness and their provider has no record of the details of what was previously done for treatment.
How to Overcome This Impact
It may feel like the potential impact of retail care sites could be significant and is inevitable, but with some intentional planning you can protect your practice from experiencing too much fallout. First, as convenience is one of the biggest attractions of retail care sites for patients, increase patient convenience at your practice so that going elsewhere isn’t an automatic decision. This could look like using telehealth to allow patients to be seen for simple illnesses with less disruption to their schedule. Allow patients to schedule their appointments online using a robust system that ensures they are choosing the correct appointment type and guides them through the process. And consider extending hours where possible, or adding walk-in clinic hours so that your practice can be just as convenient of an option for your patients when unexpected illnesses happen.
Even with adding to patient convenience, we all know that life happens and your patients still may end up at a retail clinic. Or perhaps you’re unable to have extended hours or walk-in availability. In these cases, it’s wise to establish a referral relationship with one or two of the many retail clinics in your area, and steer your patients toward these facilities when needed. Ideally, the retail clinics you partner with should be connected to your practice through the Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network and be willing to send clinical notes to your practice when your patients are seen.
When your patients are seen at facilities other than yours, it’s also important to maintain patient engagement, and this is possible through the use of technology. Use reminders to keep your patients up to date on their preventive care. Offer secure messaging through a patient portal so that patients are able to ask questions in a more convenient manner. Implement two-way texting to improve communication between your patients and their care team.
While the rise of retail care sites can seem intimidating, these clinics do serve a purpose and with some careful planning your practice can easily co-exist with this growing method of care delivery. At Henry Schein MicroMD, we understand how important it is for practices to stay relevant and maintain connections with their patients. This is why we work so hard to find the best solutions to help you engage your patients. Our MMDengage patient engagement suite of solutions offers online scheduling, appointment reminders, two-way texting, and more so that you can stay connected with your patients whether they’re in your practice or haven’t had an appointment for a while. Additionally, MircoMD offers direct provider-to-provider messaging through the Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network, enabling you to communicate retail clinics regarding your patients as needed.
To learn more or get started, visit our MMDengage site or call 1-800-624-8832.
About the author,
Crystal is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Henry Schein MicroMD. Content creation, social media management, and SEO optimization are just a few of her areas of concentration as she seeks to educate clients and prospects alike about the simple, customizable, and connected solutions we offer at MicroMD.
Looking for PM or EMR Software?
MicroMD PM and EMR/EHR is flexible and can fit almost any specialty. Let us help you get back to the business of healing.