AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Telehealth is Disrupting the Traditional Healthcare Delivery Model

Walgreens has announced that it is teaming up with MDLive to offer virtual healthcare visits through their pharmacy mobile app. Walgreens customers have been able to connect with pharmacist and Walgreens staff via the app for several years, but a new expanded telemedical service will soon be offered to Walgreens customers in their California and Michigan retail outlets. Customers, or patients, will be able to consult with physicians virtually about routine acute conditions. Walgreens’ management plans to expand the new service to their retail centers in other states.

Telemedicine has found considerable success and acceptance as a tool to connect patients located in rural areas with medical specialist in urban medical centers, bringing much needed neurological and other medical specialties to patients previously denied convenient access to advanced, specialized care. Time sensitive virtual treatment for stroke and other neurological ailments are now readily available to patients regardless of where they live, saving valuable time, improving patient outcomes and saving lives.

But the expansion of telecommunication technology to broader telehealth applications is just beginning to be introduced to consumers through retail outlets and the workplace and is likely to disrupt the normal delineation of services in the medical care industry.

Walgreens is being joined by competitors CVS and Target in an aggressive entry into virtual, in-store healthcare clinics through partnerships with a growing number of emerging or established healthcare providers. Kaiser Permanente, a leading clinical healthcare provider, is now experiencing nearly half of their patient encounters virtually, in their Northern California clinics, which has grown from 4.1 million visits in 2008 to approximately 10.5 million at the end of 2013. Permanente Medical Group CEO, Robert Pearl is predicting that Kaiser’s virtual clinic visits will exceed in-person encounters by 2016.

Typically consumers use retail clinics for services such as vaccines, strep throat tests and treatments for other common maladies but the new entrants into the retail telehealth market are predicting that patients will also use the new virtual clinics for pediatric care, well-woman care, family planning and chronic-illness management.

Investors in the expanded retail telehealth market are banking on consumer/patients to continue to respond positively to the convenience and cost savings offered by telemedicine in order to successfully navigate through the start-up to profitability curve. It has been predicted for nearly a decade that advances in telecommunication technology would lead to a vastly different and innovative medical care delivery model. It would appear that the predictions are well on the way to becoming reality.

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