The retail industry is getting bolder as they reach further and further into the health care market. According to Kaiser Health News, Walgreens is now moving beyond the typical flu shots and sore throats and venturing into primary care. They will be treating patients with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels. Other retail stores, like Wal-Mart, Target and CVS, assist customers with managing their chronic illnesses, but only after they have been diagnosed elsewhere.
The American Academy of Family Physicians isn't happy with Walgreens’ plan as it is too difficult to manage the care of patients who are receiving care in a variety of settings and in locations where specialty services aren't readily available. Quite frankly, two and a half years ago, I would have been taking the same position as the AAFP. However, when $140 million of my costs are from treating 1972 patients who are high utilizers of services due to their multiple co-morbidities such as diabetes, COPD and congestive heart failure, I am thrilled that there is additional help out there. Having Walgreens treating patients with chronic conditions in a retail setting is just one more tool that can be used in keeping patients healthy enough to remain out of the hospital. As long as Walgreens is providing safe, accessible care and know their limitations, I applaud their initiative.