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Mass. Public Health Council to vote on in-store clinic regulations

BY Antoinette Alexander

BOSTON The Public Health Council is expected to vote on Wednesday on proposed retail health clinic regulations that, if adopted as proposed, could create barriers to operating in-store health clinics within the state.

As previously reported by Drug Store News, in August, the Department of Public Health unveiled the proposed regulations that call for, among other things, clinics to maintain rosters of primary care providers accepting new patients, clinics automatically sending patient records to their primary care physician and limiting the number of times a patient can visit a clinic each year.

Looking to receive feedback on the proposed rules, state officials held public hearings in September, during which the Convenient Care Association urged state health officials to make amendments on the proposed regulations. CCA believes that the rules, if adopted as proposed, would create barriers to operating in-store health clinics within the state.

Sparking the issue was CVS’ application to open a MinuteClinic in one of its stores in Weymouth, Mass.—which would mark the first of its kind for the state. State health officials took a step back and decided it made more sense to draft retail clinic regulations. The move delayed the decision whether to allow CVS to open the first of the 20 to 30 planned clinics in the state.

In its application, CVS reportedly asked the Department of Public Health to waive some of the state’s requirements for licensing clinics. For example, because none of the conditions treated require blood tests, CVS reportedly is seeking approval to waive the requirement for blood collection equipment and facilities.

MinuteClinic has expressed its willingness to work with state officials and in a statement issued at the Sept. 5 hearing, MinuteClinic chief executive officer Michael Howe said, “MinuteClinic looks forward to working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as it develops the regulations that will guide limited service clinics in the state, as we are pleased to be part of the public dialogue today.”

Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the CCA, said that members of the association will be attending Wednesday’s meeting. She added that the association has been hard at work educating officials on the in-store health clinic model and its desire to collaborate with the health care community.

“Part of what we need to do is educate more on how we are not a primary care home. That is something we are working hard on, is to educate policymakers, consumers and providers that we are not to be a medical home. We are here to provide a continuum of care,” said Hansen-Turton. “We follow the same laws as others and we are always subject to a wide range of existing laws applicable to traditional health care providers. We want to be subject to that [the laws] but to single us out because of location certainly is a concern.”

While many support the in-store clinic model, it is no secret that some, including policymakers and physicians, have expressed concern over a lack of continuity of care and a risk that the clinics will replace a doctor-patient relationship.

However, clinic operators have long pointed to sophisticated treatment protocols and electronic medication record systems, as well as physician referral programs—all of which are generally accepted standards among virtually every retail clinic operator nationwide.

“To me, it is inconceivable that anybody in Massachusetts would oppose the convenient care clinics that are providing easier access to affordable health care in the face of what is widely acknowledged to be a significant and growing physician shortage. There are tremendous problems, in Massachusetts in particular, with access to health care,” said Web Golinkin, president and chief executive officer of in-store clinic operator RediClinic and president of the CCA. “The issue of continuity of care is important and is being addressed by convenient care providers today. Virtually all convenient care providers, by state regulation, work in collaboration with local physicians, and in some cases health care systems. In some cases, they are actually owned by major integrated health care systems so there is continuity of care and integration of care today.”

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Stick Me Designs adds style to glucose meter bags

BY Michael Johnsen

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. Stick Me Designs, an emerging accessory designer of diabetes glucose carrying cases for women, teens and children, announced the launch of their glucose meter bag collection Friday.

“While the medical supply industry is busy working on adding color, convenience and function to their meters, they’ve forgotten the most important aspect of their portability—the carrying case,” stated Rickina Velte, founder of Stick Me Designs. “We’ve taken on the task of infusing design, style and function that adds personality to an everyday necessity for people with diabetes.”

The new diabetes bags offer choices in color, fabrics, design and functionality.

The first collection features four contemporary designs created for the One Touch Ultra glucose meter and other more traditional larger-style testing meters. The bags have elastic placeholders for lancet devices, testing strips and glucose tabs or candy. They also feature interior open and zippered pockets for such everyday essentials as credit cards, identification, money, sanitizing wipes and an outside zipper pocket for other essentials.

Stick Me Designs’ introductory collection also features hand-selected faux suedes, designer upholsteries and cotton fabrics in retro and contemporary styles and colors.

Suggested retail prices will range from $32.99 to $45.99, the company reported.

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Continucare opens first clinic at Navarro

BY Antoinette Alexander

MIAMI Continucare Corp. has announced the opening of its first ValuClinic in-store health clinic within a Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hollywood, Fla.

Similar to many other retail-based clinic models, the walk-in clinic will treat acute conditions and will be staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

According to Gabe Navarro, chief executive officer of the Miami-based pharmacy chain, Continucare was on the verge of opening a few locations in the recently acquired Sedano’s stores, so Navarro proceeded with the openings.

In October, it was announced that Navarro Discount Pharmacy would merge its operations with Sedano’s Pharmacy & Discount Store. Sedano’s is a Hispanic drug retail company with 11 pharmacies in the southern Florida market. Combined, the entity has more than 30 stores with annual revenues of more than $350 million. All of the stores are operating under the Navarro banner in the southern Florida market.

According to Navarro, plans call for Continucare to have three ValuClinics open in Navarro stores by the end of the year. It expects to have a total of 15 clinics in operation in 2008.

In late 2006 it was announced that Navarro had partnered with Express Clinics to introduce in-store health clinics to the southern Florida market; however, it is possible that partnership will come to an end.

“It is uncertain whether Express Clinics will continue to operate clinics in our stores,” Navarro told Drug Store News. “[We] should know more in the coming weeks.”

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