Chronic Disease Management is Now at Your Neighborhood Pharmacy

August 28, 2013
by Brett Harris
Chronic Disease Management is Now at Your Neighborhood Pharmacy

Many people with chronic disease are forced to visit emergency departments, particularly if they experience symptoms after a primary care provider’s office is closed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some eye-opening statistics that might point to the reasons why so many healthcare managers, caregivers and patients alike groan as emergency departments continually struggle with an overflow of people in need, and a shortage of people to answer the demand.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and it alone accounts for about two million outpatient hospital visits per year. Combine that with the numerous other persistent diseases emergency department healthcare providers treat regularly and it’s not hard to see why people with chronic diseases might be playing a direct role in furthering the problem of overcrowding. Recently, Walgreen’s pharmacy announced an initiative that could ease the burden on hospital staff members around the United States.

Pharmacy Set to Offer Chronic Care Advice

Walgreens is a prominent pharmacy in the United States, and already the company has nearly 400 Healthcare Clinics (previously branded with the name Take Care Clinics) across the country. Staffed by nurse practitioners and pharmacy technicians, these retail clinics attempt to offer things like flu shots and treatment for minor injuries, especially for people who need those services outside of physician’s office hours. Now, the company has announced it will branch out to help people suffering with chronic illness.

Related: What is a Retail Clinic?

A Supplement to Primary Care

According to Heather Helle, Walgreens’ divisional vice president of the chain’s consumer solutions group, the demand for healthcare and the number of new patients is poised to increase due to reform progress, and she’d like for Walgreens to be a part of the solution by meeting the needs of patients and providers moving forward. The pharmacy has always strived to complement the role of physicians in the care of their patients, and even though it will now offer expanded services, they aren’t meant to replace appointments with primary care providers.

Related: Is Urgent Care a Substitute for Primary Care?

A Range of Services Offered

According to the Walgreens website, some of the chronic conditions the Healthcare Clinics can treat are Osteoporosis, minor depression, cardiovascular conditions, Emphysema, Diabetes and thyroid disorders. Additionally, patients can avail of the facilities to receive medications prior to traveling, EpiPen refills, and nebulizer-based breathing treatments.

Designed for convenience, the Healthcare Clinics are open seven days a week and have weeknight availability too. Staff members offer help on a walk-in basis, but patients can also book appointments online. On-site pharmacies make it easy to get refills on prescribed drugs, and the Clinics also accept most insurance plans. Since Walgreens has already established itself as a reputable provider of urgent care services, this transition to care management seems appropriate.

A Move in the Right Direction

A 2010 report from the RAND Corporation found that visits to places like Walgreens’ Healthcare Clinics are only one-fifth the cost of emergency room trips, and as many as ten percent of trips to emergency rooms might have been appropriate handled by staff members at at retail clinics such as these. Besides being kinder to patients’ pocketbooks, hopefully services like those now offered by Walgreens will make it easier for emergency room staff members to improve quality of care for patients because resources aren’t as taxed by issues that could have been treated elsewhere. In turn, hospital managers might breathe easier too, thanks to the opportunity for greater levels of efficiency.

About the Author

Author Brett Harris is a blogger and writer In New York. Interested in combining health and business together? Check out online mba healthcare management at