Published: September 15, 2008

Geisinger Health System and Lehigh Valley Health Network Increase Healthcare Access with Careworks Retail Clinic Collaboration

Danville, Pa. — Careworks Convenient Healthcare (Careworks) today announced an alliance with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to operate retail-based health clinics (retail clinics) in Allentown and Schnecksville, Pennsylvania. Retail clinics are a fast growing segment of the healthcare industry and the collaboration is believed to be the only retail clinic partnership between two physician-led, academic health systems.

Careworks retail clinics provide quick, convenient and affordable treatment for common medical problems, physical exams, lab tests and screenings. Board-certified nurse practitioners and licensed physician assistants treat ailments such as bronchitis, ear infections, minor sprains and strains, cold and flu symptoms, and pinkeye; provide health screenings such as cholesterol testing and camp and sports physicals; administer immunizations; and do laboratory tests. Geisinger Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Geisinger Health System, launched Careworks in 2006 inside Weis Markets, a Fortune 1000 grocer based in the Mid-Atlantic. This is the first alliance between Careworks and another health system.

Dean Q. Lin, Careworks CEO and founding board member of the Convenient Care Association, said the alliance between two physician-led health systems represents a major step in the evolution of retail clinics. “The next generation of retail clinics will be optimized by integrating with a local system of care while maintaining the consumer-friendly benefits of this innovative delivery model,” said Lin. “Our approach is to be a supportive clinical partner with area physicians to ensure that high quality, affordable healthcare is conveniently available to people on the go, the uninsured or underinsured or those with limited means.”

Lin said that communications informing more than 400 area physicians about the collaboration and inviting them to work with Careworks were well received, generating many positive responses from doctors.

“We believe that this collaboration, utilizing the respective strengths of each health system, has the potential to become a national example of efficient and effective use of regional healthcare resources,” said Ron Swinfard, M.D., LVHN’s chief medical officer.

Both health systems also see the retail clinics as an opportunity to provide an option for patients who might otherwise see emergency rooms as their only treatment choice for non-emergency situations. A recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that there was a 32 percent increase in visits to the ER between 1996 and 2006, yet researchers found that there haven’t been any recent increases in the number of cases considered to be true emergencies.

“The results of our recent customer satisfaction surveys indicate that Careworks is helping decrease unnecessary visits to the ER,” said Lin. “More than 16 percent of those surveyed said they would have gone to a hospital emergency room if Careworks had not been available to them.”

“We’re very excited about this first collaboration and the evolution of retail clinics,” Lin said. “We anticipate working with more health systems to deliver quality, affordable healthcare using our business model in the near future.”