- Kaiser Permanente is set to expand patient access to care by opening up 31 retail health clinics across Southern California.
Branded as “Target clinic, care provided by Kaiser Permanente,” these facilities will allow patients to access small-scale services within the retail chain. The Target Clinics will be staffed with nurse practitioners and vocational nurses, who are equipped to offer numerous services including:
- Pediatric care
- Women's health care
- Monitoring and care for chronic conditions including diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure
- Basic dermatology services
- Treatment for minor illnesses including strep throat, vaccinations, sinus pain, earaches, asthma, and cold and flu
Target Clinics will also have a staff physician available via telehealth.
The move comes on top of a two-year partnership between Kaiser Permanente and Target, which has yielded four retail health clinics in San Diego, Vista, Fontana, and West Fullerton. The two organizations plan to open facilities in Chula Vista, Santee, North Irvine, and Hemet this coming November, with the rest of the 31 promised openings coming within the next three years.
Expanding patient access to convenient healthcare serves as the basis for this partnership, according to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, Inc., President Julie Miller-Phipps. Patients are more likely to access necessary healthcare – even something as simple as a strep test – if they can conveniently access services within a highly-frequented retailer such as Target.
"This is the evolution of a successful relationship that is focused on quality and convenience," Miller-Phipps said in a statement. "We are proud to expand our existing efforts to bring affordable, quality health care to even more Target guests throughout Southern California."
The Target Clinics will also leverage administrative services from CVS Health, which also has a past relationship with Target. Currently, CVS Health operates the pharmacies located within Target stores across the country. This partnership will continue in the new Target Clinics, allowing each Target Clinic patient to receive a one-time prescription fill at the CVS Pharmacy co-located within the store.
"CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic are pleased to play a role in this unique health care relationship," CVS Minute Clinic Senior Vice President and Executive Director Sharon Vitti said in a statement. "Both CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic have a proven track record of delivering top-notch care to patients and we look forward to serving the pharmacy needs of Southern California residents through our presence in Target stores."
Adding in these services are a part of Kaiser Permanente’s and Target’s mission to drive better customer services, according to Target Senior Director of Wellness Steve Lafferty.
"From annual flu shots to care for a child's sore throat, guests in our four pilot stores have told us they appreciate having access to high-quality health care services from Kaiser Permanente during their Target run,” Lafferty explained. “Expanding the number of Target Clinic locations makes these offerings available to even more Southern California guests, and gives Kaiser Permanente members additional reasons to choose Target's easy, convenient and inspiring shopping experience.”
Although retail health clinics offer a convenient option for patients seeking healthcare, there are some areas for caution. For example, a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Mercy Health System found a disconnect between patients visiting retail health clinics and their primary care providers (PCPs).
Standard end-of-care instructions in retail health clinics and urgent care centers nearly always include directions to inform one’s PCP about the trip to the clinic. This should help PCPs coordinate care for their patients and update patient medical histories.
However, very few patients actually act on these instructions. Thirty-six percent of urgent care patients said they followed up with their PCP following a visit, and only 25 percent of retail health clinic patients said the same.
Sixty-five percent of all respondents said they assumed their PCP received automatic electronic updates regarding a recent trip to a retail health or urgent care clinic. However, this is usually not the case, with limited interoperability still plaguing the industry and many clinics using disparate health technologies.
Clinic providers must underscore the necessity for patients to connect with their PCPs following a clinic visit, emphasizing why these actions are important.
The convenience factor is likely going to keep retail health clinics open. These alternative care sites help patients with busy schedules access necessary care that prevents small ailments from escalating to larger issues.
Additionally, retail health clinics offer an easy option for patients seeking preventive care, such as flu shots. These results have significant benefits to driving overall patient health at a lower cost.
Healthcare professionals must therefore identify the shortcomings of retail health clinics. So long as patients continue to leverage clinics, providers must equip patients with the knowledge to appropriately and responsibly access clinic services.