- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rite-Aid plans to announce today that it will open physician-staffed health clinics in four Washington- and Baltimore-area drugstores, its first on the East Coast.

The walk-in clinics — where patients can be treated for ailments such as sore throats, cuts and sprains — are slated to open this summer at stores that have yet to be named.

Many of the nation’s drugstore chains have opened health clinics, designed to give customers a one-stop shopping option from diagnosis to drugs.

CVS has about 40 of its Minute Clinics, which are typically staffed by nurse practitioners, in the Washington area. Walgreens has a similar Take Care Health Clinic program, but does not have any in Washington or Baltimore.

Rite-Aid, a Harrisburg, Pa., company, has opened clinics staffed by nurse practitioners on the West Coast. But the new set of clinics will be Rite-Aid’s first to be staffed by physicians.

The Rite-Aid clinics will be run by Consumer Health Services Inc., a D.C. health center management company, and staffed by MedStar Health, a Columbia, Md., nonprofit health care company.

“What we’ve done is we’ve taken the concept of the nurse [walk-in clinic] model to include a physician,” said Dr. James D’Orta, founder of Consumer Health Services, which manages the operation. “The scope of services are by far much broader and similar to what’s found in urgent care centers.”

The clinics are being presented as an alternative to going to a hospital emergency room.

“We have become increasingly aware of the problems our patients have in obtaining health care services,” said Christine Swearingen, senior vice president for strategy and business development at MedStar. “Hospital emergency rooms are jammed increasingly with patients presenting problems that are urgent but not emergent.”

Patients who visit the Rite-Aid clinics will also have access to the MedStar system of doctors and hospitals.

The program could be expanded to other cities or other stores in the Washington and Baltimore areas.

“We’re trying to provide a convenience to patients with one place to go” to see a physician, fill a prescription and buy over-the-counter medicines, said Ernie Richardsen, vice president of pharmacy programs at Rite-Aid.

The clinics are still determining which insurance they will accept. For the uninsured, a typical payment for a small cut or stomach pain would run less than $100, Dr. D’Orta said. Clinic hours will likely mirror those at the pharmacy.

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