Walgreens officials say they will have nurse practitioners and physician assistants at more than 300 Take Care Clinics in 18 states and the District of Columbia to do tests and make diagnoses—and also write prescriptions, refer patients for additional tests and help them manage their conditions.
These kinds of chains taking over a bigger share of the health care market is good news for consumers. Care at places like Walgreens and CVS is as much as 30-40 percent cheaper than the same care at traditional doctors’ offices and 80 percent cheaper than an emergency room visits. And it’s not only cheaper; it will also help to expand access to care as the demand on doctors’ time grows under Obamacare. Not surprisingly, the American Academy of Family Physicians isn’t happy with this development, arguing that it is harder to treat patients if they switch back and forth between different kinds of facilities.Meanwhile in San Diego, the CVS’s MinuteClinic recently announced a partnership with Sharp HealthCare. Sharp is one of Southern California’s biggest integrated health systems, with hospitals, medical groups, and a health plan. The Sacramento Bee:
The clinical affiliation encourages collaboration among Sharp HealthCare and MinuteClinic providers to improve coordination of care for patients seen at these locations. Sharp-affiliated physicians will supervise MinuteClinic nurse practitioners, and if more comprehensive follow-up care is needed, patients can choose to see a Sharp-affiliated physician or another primary care physician.
These stories show two trends: the shift away from traditional care facilities and the increasing role of nurse practitioners and health officials with less training than doctors. Both of these trends are good news. They will give consumers more options and make care overall cheaper and more convenient. We’ll always have hospitals and doctors, but as tech accelerates these trends we will see a much more diversified health care system.[Walgreens image courtesy of Getty. CVS image courtesy of Wikipedia. Pills image courtesy of Shutterstock]