CVS to integrate records with hospitals, doctors

Starting next year, records from CVS pharmacies and the chain's Minute Clinics will be integrated with electronic medical records from MedStar Health's 10 hospitals and 4,000 doctors in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

It's the latest push among pharmacies such as Walgreens and stores including Walmart and Safeway to bolster ties with clinics and hospitals, reports Kaiser Health News.

CVS Health now has 41 health-system agreements in place, including nine involving its pharmacies, while competitor Walgreens is associated with 20 health systems and has joined accountable care organizations, according to the story.

The relationship offers providers an incentive to refer patients to CVS for disease management, providing the pharmacies a stream of customers. Improved communication between provider and pharmacy also can help keep chronically ill patients out of the hospital, a priority now with penalties for readmissions in place.

By seeing the patient's full record, a pharmacist can spot potential drug interactions and other risks.

Research from the University of Cincinnati's James L Winkle College of Pharmacy recently found that hospitals could reduce readmissions by up to 20 percent if community pharmacists worked with discharged high-risk patients on managing their medications.

A study published at Biomed Central, however, found a decision-support system designed to help physicians prescribe the drug least expensive to the patient--thought to be key to promoting medication adherence--actually made little difference.

Meanwhile, retail clinics such as those offered by Walmart are expected to pose stiff competition for primary care physicians in the treatment of minor health issues by offering convenience, lower costs and longer hours. Walmart's clinics are open 12 hours a day on weekdays at least eight hours a day on weekends. They accept Medicare and in certain locations, Medicaid.

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