A Comparison of Direct Patient Care Services in Large Chain Pharmacies

In an era of dwindling prescription reimbursements and high brand drug costs, community pharmacies nationwide are actively expanding their clinical and direct patient care services to both supplement traditional prescription revenue and to meet the ever-increasing demand for affordable, reliable, and easily accessible patient care.

Three key competitors in chain pharmacy, Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens have made significant investment into developing and integrating in-store clinical services. How do the clinical services offered, and accessibility compare between these clinics?  There is significant overlap in the services offered and the base services at all three clinics include:

  • Treatment for common conditions like flu, colds, strep throat, and earaches
  • Treatment of common digestive ailments
  • Point of care testing
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Vaccinations (either in clinic or at the pharmacy)
  • Physicals

Rite Aid launched RediClinic in 2005 and has since expanded to more than 60 operating locations, mostly in Philadelphia Rite Aid locations and partnered H-E-B grocery stores in Texas. In addition to the base services offered, RediClinic offers medically supervised weight loss and lifestyle modification services certified by the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM). RediClinic also provides cosmetic consultations for Latisse, Lustra, and Vaniqa.

RediClinic is staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to serve patients. RediClinics have begun incorporating new virtual health care in the form of RediClinic Express.  RediClinic Express is a video kiosk with integrated testing devices, staffed by a trained medical assistant. RediClinic Express locations are open longer hours and can connect patients to licensed physicians within the InTouch health network.  Appointments may be scheduled online, but walk-in appointments are also welcome.  Most RediClinic services, excluding vaccinations and physicals, are offered through their Express locations. Resulting prescriptions can then be sent directly to Rite Aid Pharmacy or the patients’ pharmacy of choice. Telemedicine prescribing is limited to non-controlled substances.

CVS’s Minute Clinic boasts 1,100 operating clinics with similar base services. In addition to in-store visits, CVS offers telemedicine services via smart phone or computer.  Telemedicine appointments can be made at any time and done from a patient’s home, but telemedicine services are limited to minor conditions, as no direct testing can be performed; prescribing is limited to non-controlled substances.

CVS recently announced a planned expansion of their Minute Clinics in several U.S. cities to include a HealthHUB at 1,500 CVS Pharmacy locations by 2021.  These HealthHUBs will offer expanded services and include a full blood lab, licensed nutritionists, physicians, yoga studios, expanded pharmacy services, smoking cessation programs, women’s health services, and chronic disease state management for type II diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Walgreens Healthcare Clinic provides the standard base walk-in services and several chronic disease state management services at 400 metropolitan locations nationwide. On-site clinics are generally staffed by physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners.  Telemedicine services are offered 24/7 either over the phone or through video chat, with a similar range of services as CVS. No testing is available via telemedicine. Telemedicine services provide patients with access to licensed physicians, with prescribing being limited to non-controlled substances.

All three companies offer their services for a similar price point depending on insurance coverage. Most major insurers are accepted at all locations. CVS and Walgreens also offer flat-rate cash pricing of $59 for telemedicine services for those without medical coverage.

As the race to assert dominance in the community clinic market intensifies, these companies will continue to add unique specialties and services to attract more patients. The questions remain, how do these clinics compare in market standings, and how will they attract patients? CVS currently leads the competition due its vast number of operational facilities and ambitious plans for expansion tied to its recent Aetna acquisition, which would allow for in-network coverage at Minute Clinic facilities. Walgreens comes in second, having several hundred clinics currently operating and a partnership with Humana which could include a similar in-network coverage deal at Walgreens Healthcare Clinics. However, Rite Aid, though lacking a third-party health plan/health insurer affiliation, has potential to disrupt the niche marked for telemedicine with its novel RediClinic approach. This strategy is dependent upon gaining access to payer networks.  Change in access to healthcare is here and whether the pharmacy chains will be able to modify consumer behavior accessing medical services in their locations will ultimately determine the strategies success or failure.


Posted: August 2019

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