Vanderbilt University Medical Center is behind an initiative, Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, to reshape health care access across the state.

Holly Fletcher

Vanderbilt University Medical Center will take over and operate the retail clinics in more than a dozen Walgreens stores across Middle Tennessee in a multi-year partnership that will promises to reshape how patients interact with the health system.

The Vanderbilt outposts will be a faster way for patients around the region to see providers, who will have access to their records, for routine conditions in locations that are open every day with longer hours and transparent pricing — not to mention better parking.

The existing retail clinics in 14 stores in Davidson, Montgomery, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties will be re-branded as Vanderbilt Health Clinic at Walgreens in November when the transition occurs. The medical staff in the clinics — most care is delivered by nurse practitioners — will be employed by VUMC, which is leasing the space from Walgreens.

“I just see this as a great addition,” said Dr. C. Wright Pinson, deputy executive officer and chief health system officer for VUMC. “There is a whole panoply of choices — people can go to emergency rooms, people can go to urgent cares, walk-ins, doctor’s offices or they can go to these sorts of retail clinics.”

“I don’t think anyone has any questions about whether Vanderbilt has the capability of high-end care, and this is a capability or an opportunity, if you will, to make care available that isn’t such high-end but very cost effective and convenient.”

Reaching the people who may not have primary care doctors

Retail clinics — not to be confused with urgent care clinics that often stand alone, and perform more tests — have been cropping up in stores and pharmacies around the country for about a decade. People can walk in off the street and see a clinician for a variety of treatments ranging from vaccines to physicals to basic blood work.

Prices are almost always posted and insurance isn’t required. Pinson said the prices and hours will remain the same.

Pinson is excited about the chance for VUMC to interact in a more low-key, convenient environment for people who may not have a primary care physician and are largely unacquainted with the health care system.

For younger people who aren’t chronically ill or need specialized treatment retail clinics, along with urgent care clinics, have become a primary place to turn when small things arise.

The average patient at a Walgreens retail clinic is a 34-year-old female, said Dr. Pat Carroll, Walgreens Healthcare clinics’ chief medical officer.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have primary care docs,”…