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David Mittleman
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Walgreen's To Offer Chronic Disease Care at Drugstore Clinics; Raises Ire of Doctors

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Although Walgreen’s has offered drugstore clinics to treat minor medical problems such as ankle sprains or sinus infections for some time now, the company recently announced that it is extending its care to include treatment for chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. The company follows in the footsteps of its competitor CVS, who began offering care for chronic conditions several years ago, in addition to care for minor ailments.

Drugstore clinics have become increasingly popular for patients looking for a convenient and affordable way of treating minor illnesses, particularly when the patient doesn’t have a doctor or when their doctor isn’t available. Drugstore clinics are commonly run by physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners, and while CVS says that these clinics are not meant to replace regular visits to patients’ primary care physicians, the move towards treatment of chronic conditions has some doctors worried. These doctors say that patients who go to a drugstore clinic for a chronic condition instead of visiting their regular doctor risk fragmented care and can disrupt the relationship between the primary care physician and the patient.

Some doctors have even equated drugstore clinics to eating fast food, arguing that while it is okay to visit a fast food restaurant once in a while, it definitely is not a replacement for regular balanced and healthy meals. Furthermore, primary physicians say that because they have a relationship with their regular patients, they know their patients’ histories and can thereby help them to create long term care plans and stick to those plans. Transferring records between drugstore clinics and primary care physicians can also be problematic, leading to test duplications and gaps in knowledge about the patient and health changes. I tend to agree with this sentiment, as I have witnessed in my practice and dealings with medical malpractice cases, increased responsibility should come with increased accountability. Chronis illness, if not properly diagnosed and treated, can cause serious consequences just as in the acute or urgent care setting. Communications between the patient and care giver is vital, as the best laid plan, if not properly executed or communicated, can also have dire consequences.