A Dash of mHealth to Bring Sexy Back Into Retail Clinics

A new kind of retail clinic powered by mhealth and telemedicine might be coming to a store near you.

HealthSpot Station is a digital medical kiosk that aims to redefine the retail clinic market

Retail clinic growth was rapid, especially the year 2005, until the phenomenon hit the road bump of the 2008 economy.

Now, with the advent of Obamacare/ACA, a shortage of primary care physicians means that the newly-covered throngs will need to consume healthcare through other means.

And thus begins the resurgence of the retail clinic meant to cure routine maladies like pink eye, strep throat and other conditions with the help of nurse practitioners.

But Steve Cashman, CEO of Dublin, Ohio-based upstart firm HealthSpot thinks the old retail clinic model that created the likes of CVS’ Minute Clinic and Target Clinic is fundamentally flawed. 

Cashman intends to disrupt the retail healthcare market through his own retail clinic 2.0, which marries two trends: telemedicine and consumerization of healthcare, both of which have been powered into the stratosphere thanks to mhealth and cloud technologies.

HealthSpot has created a digital medical kiosk stocked with 510-k cleared medical devices and video conferencing capability that falls under the definition of an FDA-approved medical device data system. The idea is that a patient, whether suffering a routine malady, or a more complex condition can walk into a HealthSpot location, and can video conference with a board certified physician. Patients can use medical devices such as a stethoscope or pulse oximeter and other devices to aid the doctor in his or her diagnosis remotely. Here’s a 2-minute video to help explain the concept:

This reimagination of the traditional retail clinic, Cashman contends, solves fundamental problems that he believes has stymied their growth in the United States. The first problem is an operational challenge - retail clinics take up too much space on the shop floor - 350 square feet, says Cashman - and companies have to go out and hire two, expensive, nurse practitioners .

"They have to do about 26 appointments in a day to turn a profit, which is a lot of volume. Your average doctor who we know is just booked to the hilt does 32," Cashman contends. "It's a bad business model."

Steve Cashman, founder and CEO, HealthSpot

By contrast the HealthSpot Station takes up 40 square feet of space and instead of requiring nurse practitioners, has a medical attendant in place who can help the consumer interacting with the devices and the remote physician. This brings hefty savings, Cashman notes. That allows retailers using the HealthSpot Station to turn a profit by doing only five appointments per day.

"Today, the average retail pharmacy buildout is about $350,000," whereas installing HealthSpot costs $15,000, Cashman declares.

So, operationally the HealthSpot Station is far better for retailers. But there is a broader reason too why HealthSpot stations makes better business sense than a regular retail clinic staffed by nurse practitioners.

"Basically [retail clinics] were competing with the doctors in the community versus enhancing doctors in the community," Cashman declares of the traditional model. "So you got a pharmacy where every doctor in town calls his prescription into for his patients to go to, but now you have a competitor to the doctor right in there."

Historically, it appears to be true that doctors viewed retail clinics as a threat, but now the dynamic may be changing because primary care physicians will not be able to manage the volume of care needed by the newly insured under Obamacare, according to an Accenture report. They will have to rely on retail clinics to manage that excess demand. Hence, the report is predicting a 20% to 25% growth in retail clinics between 2013 and 2015.

Cashman naturally wants to catch this wave, but he understands that HealthSpot stations need to show clinical value, first and foremost. That led him to run pilots using 12 stations with seven health systems including Miami Children’s Hospital, Central Ohio Primary Care, Nationwide Children's Hospital and MetroHealth and their employer location at the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Justice Center. There are two other major health systems currently using HealthSpot but Cashman declined to name them.

Cashman reports that pilots showed a 80% to 90% satisfaction among consumers, which is higher than the corresponding number from urgent care.

There is another benefit to the HealthSpot station to compared with traditional retail clinics. HealthSpot connects with providers remotely so the services offered can be varied. As HealthSpot's network of physicians grows, people can come in to see a behavioral expert, dermatologist, or even their own primary healthcare physicians. 

"So we have a lot broader scope of appointments and services that we can offer whereas those guys are limited to what the nurse practitioner can do," Cashman says.

All this sounds good, of course but are any retail pharmacies buying?

"We are in talks with all six top retailers, nationally," Cashman says, but declined to be more specific.

In another month and half, Cashman hopes to do large, national roll-out with one of them.

"The beauty of the HealthSpot system ... is that nobody loses. We are enabling everyone's business models from the pharmacy to the consumer to the payor to the doctor," Cashman says."The last company that did something like that was eBay. Ebay took something out of your garage, your basement that you didn't want and put it out into the community." 


-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI



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