Case Studies

Illinois Valley Community Hospital's Walmart Retail Clinic

Illinois Valley Community Hospital is a 49-bed, not-for-profit hospital located in Peru, Ill. This small, rural facility is the only full-service independent hospital serving its north-central Illinois community.

The north-central Illinois health care market can be competitive, with several health systems and hospitals operating in the area. In 2010, Illinois Valley Community Hospital (IVCH) recognized an opportunity to increase its visibility and bring in new patients by opening a retail health clinic. At the time, Peru had no other retail clinics in operation.
IVCH’s goals were to:

  • Fill a community need for high-quality, low-acuity care in a convenient location
  • Increase the visibility and reach of the hospital

After assessing the community’s needs, IVCH connected with Bellin Health, a Wisconsin-based health system that helps other hospitals and health systems set up retail health clinics under the FastCare brand. Bellin helped IVCH establish the clinic in Walmart and develop a marketing strategy. While Bellin provided much of the infrastructure and business development, IVCH brought the most important element: knowledge about Peru and a trusted name and deep ties with the community.

The clinic, staffed by hospital-affiliated nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses, treats minor medical issues on a walk-in basis, in exchange for a flat fee. Existing patients return to their primary care physicians for follow-up care, with visit records shared automatically through IVCH’s electronic health record (EHR) system. Patients without a primary care physician are referred to IVCH physicians if further care is necessary.

About a year after opening the FastCare clinic, IVCH also opened an urgent care clinic to provide complementary services. The urgent care clinic fills the gap between low-acuity conditions that can be seen in the retail environment and more serious issues that require emergency care. Together, IVCH’s various facilities offer a range of services, targeted to different acuity levels, and cases may be referred from one facility to another based on patient need. All activity is captured as part of patients’ records through EHR integration.

The strategy appears to be succeeding in its main goals. The clinic had more than 4,000 patient visits over its first 10 months of operation. It hit a high of 5,219 visits in 2013. In the years since, although other health systems have opened retail clinics in the area, the IVCH FastCare location continues to see between 4,000 and 5,000 visits a year, with a mix of new and existing patients.
Reaction from patients and providers has been positive. Since there is a shortage of primary care physicians in the area, individuals are grateful for the opportunity to drop in for minor services without an appointment or a wait. Doctors have also come to see the clinic as a resource, and many refer patients there with the knowledge that any treatment will become part of the comprehensive health record.

Lessssons Learned

  • A hospital must understand the community need it is trying to fill. Retail health is effective for addressing access issues and maintaining a presence in the community.
  • Hospitals, especially small, rural ones, should capitalize on ties to the community. Patients and families want to visit a clinic affiliated with a system they know and trust.
  • There’s no need to go it alone. Hospitals can find a partner with experience and resources rather than starting from scratch.
  • Small hospitals need to develop a long-range staffing plan early. They should be prepared for staff turnover, have backups ready and know when to change the staffing model.

Gene Vogelgesang
Public Relations Director

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