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CVS Health forms clinical affiliations with three academic medical centers

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health has entered into new clinical affiliations with three academic medical centers — the University of Maryland Medical System, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System — to enhance access to care for patients.

Through these clinical affiliations, the patients served by these medical centers will continue to have access to clinical support, medication counseling, chronic-disease monitoring and wellness programs at CVS/pharmacy stores and MinuteClinic. In addition, CVS Health will provide prescription and visit information to the participating medical centers through the integration of secured electronic medical record systems.

"We look forward to working with these leading medical centers to develop collaborative programs that improve patient outcomes, lower costs and help people on their path to better health," said Troyen A. Brennan, chief medical officer, CVS Health. "Through these clinical affiliations, we will also be integrating our electronic medical records and information systems to enable us to support patients with medication counseling and chronic disease monitoring."

The healthcare providers at the participating medical centers will receive data on interventions conducted by CVS pharmacists to improve medication adherence for their patients. The affiliation also encourages collaboration between the healthcare providers and MinuteClinic providers to improve coordination of care for patients seen at MinuteClinic locations. Physicians affiliated with the participating medical centers will collaborate with MinuteClinic nurse practitioners and physician assistants to work closely on joint clinical programs and care coordination activities. If more comprehensive care is needed, patients can follow up with their primary care provider and have access to the services at the medical center as appropriate. For those patients who do not have regular access to health care, MinuteClinic provides assistance in finding a primary care physician and a greater opportunity for continuity of healthcare services.

"Finding cost-effective ways to increase access to care continues to be important, especially in this era of healthcare reform, and we are pleased to work together with these healthcare providers to help coordinate comprehensive care for their patients. Many patients rely on their local pharmacist for information and support regarding their prescription medications and these affiliations enable CVS pharmacists to help improve affiliated healthcare providers' patient health outcomes through better medication adherence. MinuteClinic also plays an important role by providing patients with timely, affordable and high-quality walk-in health care," Brennan said.

MinuteClinic, CVS/pharmacy and the participating medical centers will begin to work toward integrating EMR systems to streamline communication around all aspects of each individual patient's care. This integration will include the electronic sharing of messages and alerts from CVS/pharmacy to the medical centers' physicians regarding potential medication non-adherence issues. In addition, MinuteClinic will electronically share medical histories and visit summaries with the patient's primary care provider when they are a member of a participating healthcare provider. MinuteClinic will continue its standard practice of sending patient visit summaries to primary care providers who are not affiliated with one of these participating medical centers via fax or mail, typically within 24 hours, with patient consent.

The new clinical affiliations announced here bring the total number of health system and healthcare provider affiliations for CVS Health and MinuteClinic to 44 major health systems and healthcare providers across the country.

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Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy now offering walk-in immunizations

BY Antoinette Alexander

BOULDER, Colo. — Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy is now offering immunizations for influenza, pneumonia, shingles and whooping cough on a walk-in basis, the company has announced.

In addition, Pharmaca will hold Flu Shot Clinics every Tuesday in September, October and November, between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Customers can bring their questions about immunization and other health concerns to pharmacists and practitioners and receive personalized advice about their health. Customers can also take advantage of special savings coupons that Pharmaca is offering exclusively to their flu shot customers, the company stated.

Members of Pharmaca's Feel Better Rewards loyalty program will receive a gift coupon for $5 worth of retail shopping when they get their flu shot at Pharmaca.

Patients can save time by downloading and filling out Patient Intake Forms, which are available on Pharmaca's website, ahead of time and bringing them when they request an immunization.

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Research: Independent pharmacy closures slowing

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — After several challenging years, exacerbated by the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the rate of independent pharmacy closures has calmed; however, continued closures due to local circumstances are not to be unexpected, and could further hamper access to pharmaceutical services in rural places, according to recent research.

According to the Rural Policy Research Institute’s Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis, the number of independently owned rural pharmacies declined by 12.1% (from 7,624 to 6,700) between March 2003 and December 2013. While the overall trend during this period was downward, the sharpest decline occurred between 2007 and 2009, when the number of these pharmacies declined by 7.2%.

The analysis also found that the number of retail pharmacies that were the only pharmacy in the community declined fairly steadily between March 2003 and May 2009 (from 2,063 to 1,767) but has remained relatively unchanged since then, with 1,773 such pharmacies in December 2013.

“The effects of Medicare Part D were likely felt most sharply and directly in the early years of implementation (2005 to 2008). Lingering effects may be felt as part of overall financial stress on independently owned retail pharmacies and may contribute to closure. However, past research by the RUPRI Center has shown that the precipitating reasons for closure without replacement include other factors, such as retirement and difficulties recruiting a successor,” researchers said.

Researchers noted that the slowing of closures and loss of the only pharmacy in the community are “somewhat encouraging for maintaining the current level of access to pharmaceutical services in rural places,” the trend warrants continued surveillance, as further closures due to local circumstances will not come as a surprise.

“Loss of pharmacists in rural areas, particularly in areas where there was only one pharmacist in the community, can have serious implications for healthcare provision. Independent pharmacists (i.e., those that are not affiliated with a chain or franchise) are of particular concern, as they are more likely to operate in underserved and rural areas and face additional business challenges from their limited ability to negotiate with pharmacy benefit managers, drug wholesalers and health plans,” researchers said.

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