Rite Aid Takes on Telemedicine-Online Medicine’s Big Day

October 6, 2011
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There’s a definite romance developing between pharmacy outlets and medical organizations when it comes to consumer-driven opportunities in health care delivery.  We’ve continued to watch Medco’s foray into genetic testing, which lingers on with all of the predictability of a clumsy first date.

There’s a definite romance developing between pharmacy outlets and medical organizations when it comes to consumer-driven opportunities in health care delivery.  We’ve continued to watch Medco’s foray into genetic testing, which lingers on with all of the predictability of a clumsy first date. Then last May came the relationship between Johns Hopkins Medicine and Walgreens. And recently, we learn of Rite Aid’s Partnership with OptumHealth to provide straight-to-the-doctor online video consultations at its Detroit locations.

Of all of these relationships parading around the consumer dance floor, it may be the Rite Aid deal that makes a real impact, especially on how medical institutions compete in the marketplace. Rite Aid intends to use telemedicine—which is not a new concept but one whose technology has certainly come of age—to have consumers interact in real-time with physicians and nurses. This brings up a host of questions concerning how primary care physicians may need to re-examine future business models. And what about ERs and walk-in clinics? Will this be the final test whereby online services trump the hassle of a noisy waiting room?

It remains to be seen whether we’re witnessing a new era in primary care, but one thing is for sure: the front line of consumer-based medicine is playing out on the retail floor and change could come quickly. Rite Aid has more than 4,700 stores nationally and is one of our largest national chains. If this venture is successful and implemented in other markets, there will be an impact and frontline medical providers will need to be prepared.

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What are your thoughts about the use of telemedicine and its impact on the future of patient care? Will our growing comfort with online social networking accelerate this trend? What are the potential drawbacks, or even serious consequences, of consumer reliance on on-demand video consultations? We’d welcome your input below.