Photo engineered by Shane Harms
Shane Harms in the examination room at CareCinic in Bartell Drugs new store. My editor told me to be sure to get a photo with the story.

Bartell Drugs and Group Health partner for affordable health care

CareClinic at the new Bartell Drugs in Ballard (1500 N.W. Market St.) opened its doors to patients last week, marking a whole new way for patients to access health care.

The clinic is one of three launching around the city. Known as CareClinic: Group Health at Bartell Drugs™; the clinic offers treatment and consultation for maladies ranging from cuts and minor injuries like burns and sprains, to infections, allergies and the flu.

Some lab testing for pregnancy and infections like strep throat will also be provided. However, imaging, blood and other lab work will not be offered at the site.

“We have a menu of things we are going to treat every time, but if the clinician thinks you’re sicker than what we care for here, they will refer patients to a medical center,” said Dr. Wellesley Chapman, Medical Director for the three new CareClinics and a Care Delivery Innovation Physician for Group Health.

With an out of pocket fee of $75, uninsured patients have the option of going to the CareClinic rather than a medical center, where depending on insurance or lack there of, can be thousands of dollars for a single visit.

Chapman thinks the CareClinic will change the patient experience in a very positive way, especially when it comes to affordability.

“What we have heard very clearly from patients about health care is that it’s hard getting to it, having access to it and its overall cost, but also cost transparency. So what we’ve designed into this is a fixed cost visit. So your maximum out of pocket here is $75,” said Chapman.

CareClinic is available to anyone, but Group Health members can expect the same co-pay and benefits they receive at Group Health medical centers. Medical records from the CareClinic automatically update Group Health member files, and they are also retained for non-members.

So how does this change health care services and costs for Ballardites?

“So think about people that have three, four, five thousand dollar deductibles. They own that risk in their health care spending. If you go to the urgent care or the ER you could very easily get a bill a few weeks later for thousands of dollars, and you have no visibility on that when your getting the services. …Here we can do a lot of the same services they do. For example, we can put together a cut – we can glue it. We can sew it. These are very expensive procedures, but we’re not going to bill you for that. It’s going to be $75. You know exactly what your maximum out of pocket is going to be.”

“What we wanted to do is come in with a price point that is reasonable for people. We came in at that $75 mark because its 40 percent of the cost of primary care visits and probably 10 percent of most ER visits.”

Not only is the service cheaper, but also how they operate is unique to the industry. Chapman said he focused innovation on trying to be more productive. Something that Chapman believes has expedited the innovations is technology.

“Technology has made it so much easier for us to break down health care into its component functions. We figured out which of those we really need to deliver in a medical center and which of those we can move out into the community in a place like this, and do it more affordably with better access and an overall better experience”.

Chapman compared health care innovations to technological advances in banking like photo check deposits. He thinks the health industry is heading in that direction.

“Health care really evolved around not focusing on the patient. It’s more designed around the physician where people come to the physician and move you through a clinical experience.“

Chapman explained that the new direction of health care is more patient-centric, changing the dynamic of patient care.

“I think of it as an experiment. If you think about putting a clinic in a drug store you know it’s not at all novel. There are thousands of these in big chains across the US. But what we have tried to do here is take a lot of the care that happens in medical centers – all the good things that happen there and move those services out into the community where its close to where patients live and where they are already shopping.”

The partnership between Bartell Drugs and Group Health is an innovation in itself. Patients no longer need to go to a clinic, a pharmacy and then to another store to buy basic items. The partnership between the two has streamlined the patient-shopper experience. Clinical services, pharmaceuticals, beer growler fills, grocery items and cosmetics can all be made with one purchase.

“This is actually a true partnership. Patients can come here and Bartell staff check you in and visit the clinic and you come out and you can pay anywhere in the store. You just get a bar code that staff can ring in with your sunglasses, ibuprofen and dog food. That’s the power of the partners ship. It makes it very easy for patients. … You shouldn’t feel like you encounter multiple organizations inside the store.

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