May 23, 2013

Medical problem? Wait a minute

Pharmacy clinics are filling a role for patients when physicians can't.

Palm Beach Post

(Continued from page 1)

Minute clinics
click image to enlarge

Wendy Sparapani checks in her son, Justin, at the minute clinic inside a CVS in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Such clinics are high-growth ventures for CVS, as well as Walgreens.

Photo by Thomas Cordy/Palm Beach Post

Until now, the clinic's staff alerted the patient to his or her diagnosis, but all they could do was urge the patient to seek a physician's care. Under Walgreens' new policy, the staff could go further by beginning treatment.

"We can get them care as soon as possible," said Shalan Randolph, who manages 10 clinics Walgreens in Florida.

But even after the patient has begun treatment, Walgreens will continue to refer him to a doctor.

At every turn, Walgreens and CVS say their practitioners refer patients back to their primary care doctors when they have one.

If the patient doesn't have one, the pharmacies keep a list of local physicians who will take patients.

CVS nurse practitioner Lorraine Hendricksen says she's proud of the work she's done, often in coordination with doctors.

This month a woman came in without an appointment for what looked like a dark spot on her leg.

"She came to visit me because she had it for a month. It looked like a scar or a mole. She thought it was something an antibiotic cream might help," Hendricksen recalled.

But Hendricksen, who manages nurse practitioners at multiple CVS clinics in Florida and also sees patients, suspected otherwise and suggested she seek a dermatologist, even made her an appointment with one for the next day.

The patient called later to tell Hendricksen that the doctor had determined it was cancer.

Donna Shalala, who headed the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration and is now president of the University of Miami, wants to see medical professionals more often at their full abilities, and pharmacy clinics give them that chance, she said.

"It's filling a need. ... At its best, it's coordinated with a seamless referral to a doctor or to a health system," Shalala said.

"It's also a convenience and it's taking care of a whole bunch of things we want to keep people out of emergency rooms for."

Walgreens' Randolph added: "Even though we are not the absolute answer to the health care problem, we are part of the solution."


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