The obvious success of in-store clinics at CVS and Wal-Mart has created a stampede to launch nurse-run sites in pharmacies nationwide. (Picture from Dr. Toni Brayer's EverythingHealth blog.)
And the stakes are rising fast, with doctors now heading to a strip mall near you.
Rite-Aid is the latest to join the gold rush, linking up with MedStar to expand its line of PromptCare clinics, staffed by doctors, in the mid-Atlantic region. The clinics themselves will be managed by Consumer Health Services.
The market drive is being aided by states like Massachusetts, which have found they must get more front-line health troops in place if they're to offer universal health coverage.
The new plan, which will start in the mid-Atlantic states only but could quickly expand, raises the stakes in this clinic-pharmacy matchmaking game.
Not only are you putting doctors into pharmacies, not just nurse practitioners, but you're providing a market path directly to the hospital.
Previous operators, like CVS' MinuteClinics and the Wal-Mart Clinics, were served by nurse-practitioners who could only do a limited number of jobs. The Wal-Mart clinics are leased, those of CVS are company-owned.
At my own pharmacy, our local pharmacist has been giving out flu shots and performing other simple tasks for a few years. I wouldn't be surprised if he brings in a nurse next, and eventually a young doctor.
The words "doctor" and "office" are gradually being pulled apart, at least in the area of primary care.