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CVS bringing more in-store clinics to NH

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 03. 2013 7:43PM
Amanda Parry, a nurse practitioner, prepares a strep test at the new Minute Clinic in CVS on Hall Street in Concord, on Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

The CVS pharmacy chain announced Tuesday that it will have in operation six in-store clinics in New Hampshire by next month, bringing marketing practices such as posted price menus, kiosk-computer sign-in, and retail convenience to the state's health-care marketplace.

Visits for ailments such as bronchitis or pink eye will be $79 to $89, which does not include prescription or lab work, according to the company website. Basic health screenings, including camp and sport physicals, will be $59.

The clinics will operate under the MinuteClinic brand and be staffed by nurse practitioners. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center family physicians will serve as medical directors, who will review the quality of care and provide consultation when necessary.

"As we have experienced in other states, MinuteClinic can support the primary care model in New Hampshire by helping to improve access to affordable care at convenient locations close to where patients live and work," said Andrew Sussman, a physician and president of MinuteClinic, a division of CVS Caremark Corp.

MinuteClinics are already operating at CVS locations in Concord and West Lebanon. One is scheduled to open in Salem next week, and locations should open in Manchester, Nashua and Hampton early next month.

CVS acquired the MinuteClinic brand in 2006, and New Hampshire is the 28th state to host such a clinic.

The company expanded to three states this year — Hawaii, Louisiana and New Hampshire, said Ann Pohnert, a nurse practitioner who manages the eastern division for the company.

She said each location takes up about 120 square feet of space and has a single nurse practitioner available during operating hours, which includes nights, weekends and holidays. If demand is strong, MinuteClinic will add a second nurse practitioner.

Spokesman Brent Burkhardt said MinuteClinic is the first national retail clinic chain to open locations in New Hampshire.

During the last two years, hospitals in Manchester have opened urgent care centers. Like at MinuteClinic, patients can receive quick access to care, but urgent care charges rival those of a doctor's office visit.

A study published in 2009 in the Annals of Internal Medicine 2009 compared the retail-clinic bill of $110 for a common treatment vs. $156 for an urgent care visit and $166 for a doctor visit. The prices include pharmacy and lab work.

Urgent care also offers some services — X-rays, stitches, bone setting — that retail clinics do not.

"Is it competition to CMC? At one level, I suppose it is," said Alex Walker, senior vice president for strategic development at Catholic Medical Center. "We're glad to have some competition. Competition's good for everybody."

He said CMC has had a lot of success with its urgent care. Patients trust the treatment they receive, and the urgent care center offers a portal to the CMC network, which includes physicians and a hospital, he said.

Greg Baxter, chief medical officer at Elliot Health Systems, said Elliot's urgent care is far different from a retail clinic. He cited the physician staff, electronic medical records and coordination of care through the Elliot system.

"High value care requires high quality of care, with appropriate access and cost," Baxter said in a prepared statement.

According to MinuteCare, about half of its customers lack a primary care physician. The clinic will provide customers with lists of physicians accepting new patients, and with permission it will mail or fax a treatment record to a customer's physician.

The company said it is working to integrate its electronic medical records system with Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

MinuteClinic said it expects payment — either by cash, check or credit card — at the time the service is provided. It accepts most health insurances, including Medicare and Anthem's Wellpoint, which is the plan offered for New Hampshire residents on the Obamacare exchange.

MinuteClinic does not currently accept Medicaid, but Pohnert said an application is in the works.

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