Sore throats and sniffles are getting a whole lot more serious at CVS Caremark, which recently announced that it has selected EHR giant Epic to revamp the inner workings of its MinuteClinic network. The expanding chain of on-the-corner providers, staffed mostly by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, has been using its own homegrown EHR for some time, but a planned expansion of the retail clinic system will require more power and analytics than the proprietary software can handle.
“EpicCare’s rich platform will allow us to continue to provide the highest quality of care and advance our services through a robust, world class EMR,” said Andrew Sussman, MD, President of MinuteClinic and Senior VP and Associate CMO of CVS Caremark Corporation. “We’ve reached a point in the evolution of our clinical practice where a more advanced EMR that facilitates more immediate information sharing with other health care providers is needed.”
The rise of the retail clinic has been watched with interest by harried providers who may be relieved that patients have somewhere else to go for low-level ear infections or routine vaccines, but may also worry about just how much of the market share retail chains are gobbling up. MinuteClinic has added more than 350 clinics over the past three years and hopes to continue its rapid expansion by reaching 1500 locations by 2017. CVS is just one of the many retail pharmacy chains poking interested noses into the healthcare provider space, and many have moved past the use of basic in-house systems already.
In October, Walgreens announced a partnership with analytics firm Inovalon to boost its population health management capabilities, targeting visits on specific issues that have relevance for each patient. “A lot of these patients…don’t always appreciate whether their condition is getting worse or better or staying stable,” explained Keith Dunleavy, MD, President and CEO of Inovalon. “So the analytics help us narrow down the questions that need to be asked, what lab tests need to be done, and what medications need to be reviewed, and then get that work done so the patient can have a better outcome. We get to be part of an integrated care system, together with the insurance companies and Walgreens, and with the member, to stay in good communication with the member’s provider.”
CVS and Walgreens are also among a group of pharmacies pledging to integrate Blue Button health information sharing into their systems, allowing patients to access their personal health information online, download it to a printable document, or share it with their primary care provider. CVS also made waves last month by announcing it will be phasing out the sale of tobacco products in all of its locations as it transitions from corner store to more comprehensive healthcare provider.
The implementation of an Epic EHR furthers this transition in a big way. Epic is the most popular hospital EHR system in the nation, and may give CVS an edge in the fight to attract patients suffering from common ailments. “Retail clinics play an important role in community-wide care delivery,” said Carl Dvorak, Epic President. “Patients receive the most value in terms of quality, cost, and overall wellness when care is well-coordinated across disciplines and locations so we’re glad to have CVS MinuteClinic join the nation’s largest network of care organizations securely sharing patient information.”