By Marty Stempniak
A Minnesota-based health system is going beyond brick and mortar to compete with local retail clinics.
HealthPartners — a six-hospital integrated delivery system with a health plan — is located in a competitive marketplace that includes 27 Target Clinics and 28 MinuteClinics. CVS announced in October 2009 that it was forming a partnership with Allina Hospitals & Clinics, one of the largest health networks in Minnesota. That includes aligning clinical operations, referring visitors to each other’s services and interfacing electronic records.
HealthPartners responded in 2010 by rolling out an online clinic model called virtuwell, which allows patients to log in, answer a series of questions, receive a diagnosis, and even order a prescription. The interaction all happens from a desktop computer, at a cost of $40 to the patient.
“We’ve changed ourselves to say, ‘We can’t be just about seeing patients in exam rooms,’ ” President and CEO Mary Brainerd told attendees at the Mayo Clinic’s Transform 2013 symposium in Rochester, Minn., last month. “We need to be about ‘Call, click, come in.’ ”
In developing virtuwell, “we gave ourselves the challenge of ‘out-MinuteClinic-ing’ MinuteClinic, and ended up creating some online capabilities for care received through a nurse practitioner for routine, inexpensive acute health conditions,” Brainerd said.
Those include 40 common ailments — from acne to bladder infections, sunburn and lice — that are associated with high-diagnostic accuracy and don’t require a lab test. In an interview with H&HN in February, HealthPartners leaders said they had treated 51,000 patients from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and saved about $88 in costs per visit, along with 2.5 hours of patient time, compared with more traditional clinic settings.
Kevin Palattao, vice president of virtuwell and of clinic patient care systems, said at the time that leaders were encouraged by the program’s success in a competitive market. “Consumers have a lot of choices. And the fact that we’re generating these savings when they’re already used to going to lower-cost venues than emergency rooms, that was pretty impressive to us,” Pallatao said. “And it just says that this thing probably has even bigger legs in other markets where that’s not the case.” — Marty Stempniak