By 2018, there will be over 2,800 retail health clinics in the U.S., nearly 50 percent more than in 2014. Traditionally, retail clinics offered a limited array of services focused on treating mild or seasonal medical issues, such as illness, preventative care and vaccinations, and basic low-level health services. As their popularity has steadily grown, due to their convenience when a problem may not be seen as important enough for a primary care visit, walk-in availability, and extended hours of operation, retail clinics have to accommodate the rise in patients. Now, these companies have shifted their focus towards expanding services, investing in technological capabilities, and growing patient volume.
As part of this shift in focus, many retail clinics have implemented electronic health record (EHR) systems. For example, Walgreens announced it would deploy EpicCare Ambulatory and CareEverywhere, an Epic tool used to securely share patient records with other providers, across Walgreens’ 400+ clinics. The project was initiated to enable Walgreens to better care for patients through improved care coordination and interoperability.
Walgreens’ Epic implementation is similar to that announced by CVS several years ago. Since announcing its implementation of EpicCare Ambulatory in 2014, CVS entered numerous data-sharing partnerships with leading health systems across the country that also use EpicCare, including Sutter Health in California and Millennium Physicians Group in Florida. By sharing data with external providers, CVS and Walgreens improve clinical communication and reduce the cost of redundant tests or procedures.
Large-scale projects like these highlight the scale in which provider organizations are investing in interoperability as a tool to support strategic growth initiatives and encourage standardized, more efficient patient care.
Steve Weichhand is director, Avaap EHR, where he is responsible for helping customers improve care delivery through computer software and process changes. Avaap EHR specializes in Epic implementations and clinical optimization and is a KLAS-rated Category Leader in revenue cycle optimization.