Your next trip to Giant Eagle for milk and eggs could include a visit with a University Hospitals nurse to get that scratchy throat checked out.
University Hospitals’ first FastCare clinic, opening inside the Legacy Village Giant Eagle on Thursday morning, will be staffed with UH nurse practitioners who can diagnose and treat basic ailments ranging from strep throat to bladder infections.
It will also be the region’s 19th example of what has become a growing national trend: drug stores, discounters and supermarkets opening limited-scope, walk-in clinics under their roofs.
But unlike some of its competitors, the UH FastCare will be staffed and controlled entirely by University Hospitals’ medical staff, with computers connected directly to the hospitals’ network, and treatment overseen by UH physicians.
“When you come into the University Hospitals FastCare clinic, you’re signing in as a UH patient,” said Dr. Michael Nochomovitz, president of University Hospitals Physician Services.
If someone comes in with something more serious, she would be sent to an urgent care center or to the hospital.
Future clinics will open inside Giant Eagle stores in Chardon, South Euclid, Stow, Wadsworth and Willoughby. The Stow and Wadsworth clinics will be staffed by Summa Health System nurse practitioners.
“People who have been in car accidents or who are having chest pains still need to go to the emergency room,” said Carol Kercher, one of three nurse practitioners who will be working out of Legacy Village.
But in the vast number of cases, complaints are minor (fevers, colds and flu, ear and sinus infections, bronchitis, pink eye and allergies) and can be treated on site for about $46 to $66 per visit.
No appointments are necessary, but if there’s a wait, patients will get a pager they like use at restaurants, said Jessica Kazarick, FastCare operations coordinator.
The idea is to offer a broader range of quality medical care to people who might not be able to see their own doctors, said Randy Heiser, Giant Eagle’s Pharmacy vice president. “We can also meet customers’ prescription needs if they choose our on-site Giant Eagle Pharmacy,” although patients can use any pharmacy.
Between last May and this May, the number of such clinics rose 5.2 percent, to 1,176 nationwide, according to Merchant Medicine LLC, a Minneapolis consulting company focused on urgent care and retail clinics.
Retailers like the fact that such clinics bring people into their stores and boost their pharmacy business, while hospitals like the fact that they ease overcrowding in emergency rooms and give the hospitals more referrals to their own doctors, said Merchant Medicine CEO Tom Charland. The fact that FastCare is run directly by University Hospitals means “if a patient shows up and the nurse practitioner notices that he hasn’t had a certain type of vaccine, she can give it to him right there and then update his chart,” he added.
Whereas if a third party is running the clinic, she would have to fax or e-mail the chart to the patient’s doctor.
Moreover, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine, “not only are retail clinics less expensive than urgent care centers, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms, but the quality of care is as good,” Charland said.
Giant Eagle proposed the partnership, and UH agreed because it’s the largest supermarket chain in Northeast Ohio, with 94 stores (84 with pharmacies inside).
Other retailers with in-store clinics include:
— Last year, the Cleveland Clinic announced a deal with CVS Caremark Corp., the nation’s largest drug store chain, to oversee nine MinuteClinics inside CVS/Pharmacies in Northeast Ohio.
Unlike UH FastCare, MinuteClinics are run by MinuteClinic nurse practioners under the supervision of Cleveland Clinic physicians, and MinuteClinic staff do not have access to Clinic medical records.
The Cleveland Clinic also plans to announce additional CVS MinuteClinics in Florida.
— Discount Drug Mart, based in Medina, operates two Community Express Care Clinics in its stores in Olmsted Falls and Independence, and plans to open three more by the end of the year. The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners from Parma General Hospital.
— Walgreen Co., the nation’s second-largest drug store chain, has six Take Care Clinics inside stores in Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls, Elyria, Lorain, Mentor and Solon. The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians assistants from Take Care Consumer Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Walgreen.
— Acme Fresh Market has two ExpressCare Health Clinics run by staff from Akron General Hospital at its stores in Akron and Stow.
— Walmart Stores has one clinic at its store in Wooster, owned and operated by Bloomington Medical Services, and plans to open more.
— Future FastCare clinics will open inside stores in Chardon, South Euclid, Wadsworth, Willoughby and Stow, although opening dates for haven’t been decided. The Wadsworth and Willoughby clinics will be staffed by Summa Health System nurses.
FastCare will be operated independently from Giant Eagle, meaning no one from Giant Eagle will have access to names or medical records, and you don’t have to be a Giant Eagle Advantage customer to stop by.
“And unfortunately, you’re not going to get fuelperks (gas discounts) in this clinic,” Kazarick joked.
Visit www.medtipster.com to locate a Giant Eagle or another retail clinic nearest you.