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More and more healthcare is happening outside the hospital. Often, that means patients are getting basic care inside big retail stores. Kaiser Permanente recently opened four clinics inside Target stores across Southern California.
The Target clinic in San Diego is tucked away towards the back of the store, far past the registers and a few aisles down from the cafe serving pizza and popcorn. Through a door next to the pharmacy, shoppers find a quiet reception area and a pair of exam rooms where they can see a nurse practitioner.
Dr. Paul Bernstein, Kaiser’s medical director in San Diego, says these clinics offer patients maximum convenience. He says you could be at Target buying some diapers, “And if your kid happens to have an earache at the same time, instead of thinking, ‘Ugh, do I have to go to urgent care, or go somewhere else?’, you just walk a couple aisles over.”
Patients can even see a doctor — at least one on a screen. They have the option to videoconference with someone like Dr. Heidi Meyer, a Kaiser family physician who spends part of her time on call from an office about 15 miles away.
Kaiser says telemedicine works for these clinics because remote doctors are looking at the same electronic files as nurses in the clinic.
But shuffling digital files between hospitals and big box stores has its risks, according to Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). According to the ITRC’s tally, healthcare reported the most data breaches of all industries in 2014.
“They have struggled,” says Velasquez, who worries about healthcare companies joining forces with retailers; especially a retailer like Target. She says the ITRC fielded a huge spike in calls back in 2013, when millions of Target customers had their credit card data compromised.
“Those vulnerabilities that they each had individually have now expanded,” Velasquez says. “Here’s a healthcare entity that now has, potentially, the same vulnerabilities as a retail entity and vice versa.”
Kaiser says it remains tasked with keeping medical information secure, but defers to Target on any breach that might happen in its payment system. It’s a balancing act security experts will be watching as retail clinics expand. Kaiser is hoping to open more clinics in California Targets later this year.