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Retail Clinics Expand Convenient Patient Access to Lab Services

A partnership between Walgreens and LabCorp will allow convenient patient access to lab services.

Walgreens and LabCorp will partner to drive better patient access to lab services in retail clinics.

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Seven Walgreens retail clinic locations will now host LabCorp testing, offering patients convenient access to lab services.

Walgreens and LabCorp formed this partnership in an effort to increase the number of healthcare services patients can access in a convenient, retail location.

Retail clinics are on the rise due to their ease-of-access. LabCorp hopes to expand its laboratory testing services by partnering with a major provider of retail health services, such as Walgreens.

“The customer-centric culture and nationwide footprint of Walgreens are a perfect match for LabCorp and the patients we serve,” said LabCorp Chairman and CEO David P. King. “This significant collaboration will enhance LabCorp’s patient engagement in key markets across the country and offer increased access to LabCorp’s broad range of laboratory services as we execute our mission to improve health and lives.”

The partnership will also benefit Walgreens, the retail chain’s leadership said. Adding LabCorp services in Walgreens stores will allow patients to access a wider variety to affordable healthcare, a part of the retail clinic core business model.

“This agreement brings together Walgreens trusted pharmacy and community health care services with LabCorp’s long-standing reputation for innovation and quality in diagnostic laboratory testing,” said Walgreens President and Co-Chief Operating Officer Alex Gourlay. “We look forward to bringing affordable and accessible health care to the communities we serve.”

Via this partnership, LabCorp will offer Walgreens patients access to 4,800 laboratory tests, including women’s health tests, genomics, oncology, and companion diagnostics. Tests will be conducted at LabCorp facilities and specialty test centers across the country. The LabCorp sites within each Walgreens will serve as specimen collection centers.

LabCorp at Walgreens centers will begin opening later this year. By summer’s end, the pair aim to open five centers in Denver and one in Morrisville, North Carolina. By the end of 2017, the entities intend to open another location in Deerfield, Illinois.

Retail clinics have emerged as a popular solution for patients looking for more convenient and affordable healthcare. A 2016 patient survey from Oliver Wyman found that convenient care options, such as telehealth and retail clinics, have become a boon in patient care. Patient visits to retail clinics increased from 15 percent in 2013 to 26 percent in 2015, the survey of 2,000 patients found.

Patients enjoy retail and urgent care clinics because the clinics offer easier appointment access and have more convenient locations. Seventy-eight percent of respondents also reported that retail clinics offer care quality that is on par with traditional primary care physician offices.

“Providing care in more convenient settings (like the local drug store or a person’s own living room) can drive consumer engagement, and that can lead to higher satisfaction and – most importantly – better health,” the survey authors said. “Right care in the right place at the right time is a compelling value proposition, and one that has the potential to disrupt the entire marketplace – if designed and executed correctly.”

Correct execution is the operative phrase. Although retail clinics are touted for their affordability, patients need to be careful about how frequently they visit and for what reasons. While the cost of service in retail clinics is usually lower than at a more traditional provider, overutilization can often cause problems, research shows.

A 2016 RAND Corporation study found that because retail clinics are so affordable and convenient, patients with milder symptoms are visiting the clinics when they otherwise would allow symptoms to mitigate themselves. Patients with the common cold, for example, might show up at a retail clinic when they may have resolved their issues with rest and over-the-counter medications.

“These findings suggest retail clinics do not trim medical spending, but instead may drive it up modestly because they encourage people to use more medical services,” said Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an adjunct researcher at the RAND Corporation. “Retail clinics do offer benefits such as easier access to medical care, but the widely expected cost savings may not be realized.”

Retail clinics are continuing to grow despite those findings. As clinics and retail chains such as Walgreens continue to increase their services lines, it will be important that industry professionals educate patients about the appropriate times to access care and in which locations.

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