Walgreen’s has taken a page out of the CVS and Wal-Mart playbooks by purchasing the Take Care Health Systems. Take Care operates “50 health care clinics in Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.” Walgreen’s plans to open Take Care clinics in its pharmacies which total 5700 across the United States. Grace Marie Turner of the Galen Institute opined in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that the clinics represent the free market at work:
Rick Kellerman, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, concedes, “The retail clinics are sending physicians a message that our current model of care is not always easy to access.” The threat of competition from the in-store clinics means some doctors are keeping their practices open later and on Saturdays and holding an hour open for same-day appointments. Competition works.
And the clinics are working to solve another problem that is vexing Washington — creation of electronic medical records. Most retail clinics create computerized patient records, with the goal of making the records accessible throughout the chain. The records also can be emailed to a hospital or to the patient’s regular doctor — or sent by fax if necessary.
This industry is in its infancy and will hardly register in our nation’s $2 trillion-plus health care bill. But just as Nucor overturned the steelmaking industry with a faster-better-cheaper way of making low-end rebar, these limited service clinics could be the disruptive innovator in our health-care system. Package pricing for more complex treatments, like knee replacement surgery, may not be far behind.