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Retail clinics: Improved care at a lower cost

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Retail clinics. Save. Money. Without regard to who’s footing the bill exactly — healthcare payer or Jane Patient — retail clinics not only represent a significant cost savings across the board, but by siphoning nonemergency-yet-still-urgent cases out of the emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, retail clinics also can contribute to improved care across the healthcare continuum.

(THE NEWS: Study: Retail clinics save nonemergency patients money. For the full story, click here)

All told there were 119.2 million total ER visits in 2006, up 8.2% as compared with 2004, according to ACEP. Extrapolate that figure with WellPoint’s finding that 19.4% of those visits may be for nonemergencies across the entire nation, and the fuzzy math equates to an approximate 23.1 million non-emergency patients presenting across some 3,833 ERs. For whoever is paying for the cost of care, that’s an expenditure totaling $10.2 billion if every case were to present at an ER; as compared to $1.2 billion if every case were to present at a retail clinic. That’s the cost savings piece.

But cost savings aren’t the only benefit retail clinics afford the overall healthcare system —  there’s a general improvement in care. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, average waiting times for patients triaged with non-emergency ailments at emergency departments range between one and two hours, but only when the ER isn’t crowded. That’s like saying that bee stings don’t hurt, you know, except when they do.

Let’s face it, in a nation of 309 million and counting, there are simply not enough points of care, be it for an emergency or nonemergency situation. Taking nonemergency visits out of emergency rooms would likely improve the efficiency of care for more critical patients, as well as the experience of care for noncritical patients. That’s the improved care piece.

Improved care at a lower cost, that’s what retail clinics bring to the table.

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Combined effects dampen Spartan’s Q4, fiscal-year earnings

BY Alaric DeArment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Combined effects of a bad economy, price deflation and sold or closed stores dampened sales for Midwestern supermarket operator Spartan Stores in fourth-quarter 2010, causing a drop to $558.8 million, compared with $581.3 million in fourth-quarter 2009, the company said in an earnings report Wednesday. Spartan’s fiscal year ended March 27.

Sales for the fiscal year as a whole saw a smaller decrease, falling to $2.55 billion, compared with $2.58 billion in fiscal year 2009. Profits for fourth quarter 2010 were $13.7 million, compared with $17.3 million in fourth quarter 2009. Profits for the year were $63.5 million, compared with $72.7 million in 2009.

“We expect to generate improved cash flow, to further strengthen our balance sheet and to execute additional elements of our consumer-centric business strategy during fiscal 2011,” Spartan president and CEO Dennis Eidson said. “Following our aggressive capital investment program during the past two years, our retail store base is in good physical condition.”

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ROI marks three-year anniversary

BY Allison Cerra

NEW HAVEN, Conn. A software-as-a-service provider specializing in retail space and assortment optimization marked its three-year anniversary.

Retail Optimization Inc. offers an innovative, predictive macro analytics that optimizes both retail space and assortment simultaneously. Since ROI’s inception, more than 400 grocery and drug stores including Supervalu, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Rite Aid and Ahold have been optimized by the ROI process, the company said.

Additionally, new partnerships with such consultancies as Willard Bishop and Retail Performance Group are continuing the momentum and already showing positive effects, ROI said.

“The retail market demands results and we typically see 3% to 5% lifts on a store by store basis,” said ROI president and CEO Wes Bray, “Since we can deliver scalable, predictive analytic reporting that interfaces with a retailer’s current systems, ROI is perfectly positioned to quickly provide critical business intelligence, especially as more retailers move toward computer automated ordering.”

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