Kaiser Permanente is moving into the retail clinic business, teaming up with big-box retailer Target Corp. to open four store-based locations in California that will use telemedicine to go beyond traditional in-store clinic services.
Three Kaiser clinics opened this month in San Diego, Vista and Fontana, Calif., and a fourth will open in West Fullerton in December, serving both Kaiser health plan members and non-members. With the addition of the four clinics, Minneapolis-based Target will have 84 clinics in eight states, but the Kaiser-staffed clinics will have expanded capabilities compared to other locations.
Most of the Kaiser Target clinics will be staffed with a licensed nurse practitioner and a licensed vocational nurse, both from Kaiser's workforce. Patients also will be able to interact with the Kaiser physicians via telemedicine, a model that pharmacies such as Rite Aid and CVS have also explored. The Target-Kaiser arrangement will have Kaiser urgent-care clinic doctors respond to telemedicine requests.
Chris Stenzel, Kaiser's senior vice president of business development and innovation, said the company hopes the extra perk of having an on-call physician will attract potential patients.
“The fact that it's available will mean more people will feel comfortable in coming in and saying, 'Well, I'm just not sure what this is,'” Stenzel said.
Though individuals use retail clinics for services such as vaccines and strep throat tests, Kaiser and Target are betting patients will use their clinics for more than just emergent needs. With services uncommon to retail settings such as pediatric care, well-woman care, family planning and chronic-illness management, the clinics should feel more like a primary-care setting, Stenzel said.
Walmart has similarly marketed its new retail clinics as primary-care facilities. That retailer has opened 16 clinics in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
Ultimately, the Target clinics are about convenience, Stenzel said. Kaiser wants to meet patients where they “live, work and play,” he said, and apparently, where they shop.
“This is an arena that's evolving and Kaiser Permanente wants to be involved,” Stenzel said. “We want to innovate and respond to the market's needs.”
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