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All pharmacies will soon be clinics

The words "doctor" and "office" are gradually being pulled apart, at least in the area of primary care.

Minute Clinic insideThe 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.

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