Rite Aid Pharmacies Offer Access to Tele-Docs

FEBRUARY 13, 2012
Daniel Weiss, Senior Editor
Patients who want immediate access to a physician have a new option: a computer link at their local Rite Aid pharmacy.

Patients in a few areas of the country who want immediate access to a physician have a new option: a computer link at their local Rite Aid pharmacy. Through a partnership with OptumHealth, the pharmacies allow patients to show up without an appointment, search for a doctor, and receive an immediate consultation via webcam, chat, or telephone. In addition, on-site pharmacists can help explain the program and offer in-person assistance and medication counseling.
The program, called NowClinic, was launched in 9 Detroit-area Rite Aid stores last September and expanded last month to Pennsylvania, with 4 Rite Aid stores in the Pittsburgh area and 1 in the Harrisburg area. According to an article in American Medical News, the program is an effort by Rite Aid to catch up with its competitors, CVS and Walgreens, which have dominated the competition to establish in-store medical clinics. Rite Aid’s virtual clinics represent a less expensive alternative to these traditional retail clinics, which are generally staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
In the Rite Aid clinics, the patient communicates with health care providers through a computer terminal in a private room. Speaking with a nurse for up to 15 minutes is free, and a 10-minute consultation with a physician runs $45, payable by credit card. Insurance is not accepted, although patients can submit claims to their insurance company for reimbursement. Patients can search for a physician by criteria including specialty, gender, location, and patient reviews, or they can opt to see the first physician available in a given specialty.
NowClinic physicians have been consulted regarding a variety of acute conditions, including allergies, bladder infection, bronchitis, cough and cold, diarrhea, fever, insomnia, nausea, pink eye, rash, seasonal flu, sinus infection, sore throat, and viral illness. If necessary, the patient can measure their blood pressure, weight, or temperature using equipment in the NowClinic kiosk and communicate it to the physician. Based on the consultation, the physician can make specialist referrals, write prescriptions for non-controlled substances, and order vaccinations from an on-site pharmacist. A record of each visit is stored, and visit notes can be shared with other providers.
NowClinic physicians can also be consulted by patients from their home computers in 22 states. The in-store locations, however, offer the advantage of easy access to the Rite Aid pharmacists who can dispense prescriptions immediately after the medical consultation. They can also refer to patients’ medication history to ensure that the patients do not experience negative interactions and answer any further questions.
“The nice synergy here is if you go in and speak to the pharmacist and they think that you might benefit from a medical consultation, they can explain to you what NowClinic is if you haven’t tried it before,” Leyla Kokmen, an OptumHealth spokesperson, told Pharmacy Times. “They can let you know what the tool is, help you log in, get you set up, and make sure you’re comfortable before you start your session.”

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