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Retail Health Proves Profitable for Health Systems

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, December 15, 2010

The clinics, which are in local supermarkets, are cobranded as "Careworks in Collaboration with Lehigh Valley Health Network," but Geisinger is responsible for clinical and operational oversight.

"They're Geisinger's patients, not ours," Larrabee says. "They work with our physicians for accepting referrals down the line for things that can't be done at the clinic and if follow-up care needs to be obtained."

For Wuesthoff, the clinics have paid off by keeping EDs clear of non-emergent cases; a survey of its Walmart clinic patients found that 15% said if the clinic was not available, they would have gone to the emergency room.

The health system has also seen an increase in patients to its affiliated primary care physicians and is starting to see downstream revenue in its hospitals. Because of this, Wuesthoff plans to open three more Walmart clinics in coming years.

Despite its initial reluctance, LVHN is pleased that it partnered with Geisinger's Careworks and may be interested in partnering to open additional clinics down the line. The health system has also been pleased to see an increase in ED volume and specialist referrals.

As hospitals begin to focus on directing patients to the most appropriate point of care, retail health clinics may prove to be a successful component of accountable care.

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