Inmar Inc. | June 26, 2013

As we reported in 2012, the complete rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could lead to an increase of patients using retail health clinics. A study (PDF) released June 12, 2013, by management and technology consulting firm Accenture confirms this idea.

The study cited that the number of in store clinics is expected to double by 2015. Multiple factors are expected to lead to this increase but the primary reason seems to be the number of newly insured patients who need access to healthcare but are not affiliated with a specific physician practice. With an already overtaxed system, convenient and quick care will relieve some of the long waits expected to occur after January 1, 2014 when the last major piece of ACA is expected to take place.

Pharmacies have an opportunity in this new landscape to be more attuned to patient care and leverage patient relationships with the clinics to write new prescriptions and have a stronger hand in adherence and transitional care. Also, as the clinics treat more patients, the opportunity to become more involved in therapies for chronic diseases such as diabetes will help pharmacies become a stronger partner in patient care. With chronic and elderly patients, this could help reduce readmissions and misuse of medicine. This face to face communication and collaboration with health systems, gives community pharmacies a competitive edge over mail order pharmacies.

All of these changes, while giving pharmacies ample opportunities to expand their patient care, have their challenges for the pharmacy. Insurance usually covers clinic visits under the medical benefit adding a new layer of back office reconciliation to the pharmacies. As we have previously noted, specialty pharmacy is also increasing rapidly in the marketplace. As pharmacist transition to specialty pharmacies, the opportunity to monitor patients and follow administration of the drugs will be easier as retail clinics become more established within their local communities as a healthcare provider. Because many of these new specialty medications are not self administered, many are covered by medical benefit. This is a natural extension of the clinic services already being provided.

In the backroom of the pharmacy, this will lead to a great deal of questions for retailers with returns management of pharmaceuticals as well as handling and destruction of expired pharmaceuticals. With an increase of vaccinations and injections, there is a new layer of hazardous materials for retailers that must be managed.

Will the rise of the retail pharmacy in the wake of ACA help with patient care and position pharmacists to be more involved in patient care? Please join the discussion and leave your comments below.