In late March, I attended "Examining Health Care Competition," a Federal Trade Commission workshop to study trends in the evolving health care industry and how they affect and are affected by economic competition. One story during the "Innovation in Health Care Delivery" panel grabbed my attention.
Dr. Nancy Gagliano,Chief Medical Officer of MinuteClinic, described MinuteClinic’s latest "innovation on top of an innovation"—offering telehealth visits within a retail setting.
MinuteClinic aims to operate in 1,500 locations by 2017, putting 60% of patients in the U.S. within 10 miles of their nearest clinic. But many rural areas lack the projected patient volumes to justify staffing a full-time nurse practitioner (NP) on site.
Rather than bypassing these areas altogether, MinuteClinic staffs rural clinics with a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). The LVN takes patient vitals then connects the patient via video to an NP at a distant MinuteClinic site who diagnoses the patient and creates a treatment plan. With the assistance of the LVN and peripheral devices that transmit live video and images, the NP can look at the patient’s ears and throat and even listen to the patient’s heartbeat.
Value for today
By launching these telehealth-powered clinics, MinuteClinic achieves three immediate results:
- Expanded access. These clinics open up new points of access and extend the MinuteClinic brand to patients who might otherwise live too far away from a retail clinic option.
- Enhanced cost efficiency. By leveraging lower-level staff at rural clinics and utilizing marginal NP capacity in their traditional clinics, MinuteClinic creates a cost-efficient staffing structure.
- Improved patient experience. 95% of patients rated these visits as just as good as or better than a traditional visit–patients may attach to getting the attention of two providers, as well as the “cool factor” of being able to see their own ears and throat on screen.
Value for tomorrow
In addition to these immediate benefits, MinuteClinic’s telehealth clinics also secure value for the future.
MinuteClinic can use utilization rates for these clinics to gauge local and regional service demand and strategize placement of future locations. High volumes at a telehealth clinic might prompt the organization to upgrade the facility to NP staffing, while lower volumes might affirm their decision to keep the staffing model as is.
Access to Care,