The pharmacy chain is closing about 160 of its health clinics and focusing instead on telehealth partnerships with health systems, its mHealth platform and connected health services for chronic care patients and seniors.
Faced with competition from a growing direct-to-consumer telehealth market, Walgreens is shutting down roughly 160 of its in-store healthcare clinics.
Company officials said they’ll instead focus on connected health partnerships with hospitals and health systems and test out retail health clinics that focus on more complex issues, like chronic care management and senior services. Some 200 retail clinics will remain open, mostly through those healthcare partnerships.
Walgreens’ decision to maneuver away from DTC telehealth clinics for non-urgent care fits into an ongoing trend in the retail industry. DTC telehealth, particularly for non-acute issues, isn’t easy and doesn’t turn a profit in the short run, so it requires a lot of time and effort to maintain. Health systems and telehealth providers have a better chance at weathering the downtime and moving toward sustainability.
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Instead, businesses like Walgreens, CVS Health, Rite Aid, Publix, Target and Walmart are either teaming up with local health systems, partnering with telehealth providers and migrating healthcare services to an mHealth platform or looking to develop clinics that facilitate care management, rather than one-off visits.
Walgreens’ telehealth and mHealth portfolio is extensive. The pharmacy chain last year unveiled its new “Find Care Now” connected health platform, including a connection to MDLive’s telehealth platform, and a partnership between Anthem and American Well to give its members access to non-urgent care on mobile devices through the Samsung Health app.
And this past January, the company announced a partnership with Microsoft to create a connected health platform that includes telehealth stations, digital health tools and a “seamless ecosystem” that connects the consumer to providers, payers and others in the healthcare landscape.
“Our strategic partnership with Microsoft demonstrates our strong commitment to creating integrated, next-generation, digitally enabled healthcare delivery solutions for our customers, transforming our stores into modern neighborhood health destinations and expanding customer offerings,” Stefano Pessina, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, said in the release. “WBA will work with Microsoft to harness the information that exists between payers and healthcare providers to leverage, in the interest of patients and with their consent, our extraordinary network of accessible and convenient locations to deliver new innovations, greater value and better health outcomes in health care systems across the world.”
Walgreens has been busy more recently with healthcare partnerships. Just this week, the company announced a deal with the Cincinnati-based, six-hospital TriHealth health system, which will assume management of seven in-store clinics next year.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates our ongoing commitment to collaborate with community health systems, like TriHealth, to offer convenient access to affordable healthcare services while helping to ensure a true continuum of care for our patients,” Chet Robson, Walgreens’ acting chief medical officer, said in a press release. “We look forward to working with TriHealth as it shares our commitment to delivering exceptional and personalized patient care.”
Earlier this month, the company announced a partnership with Novant Health, a three-state, 15-hospital system based in North Carolina. In that deal, Walgreens will take over nine of Novant’s retail pharmacies, while the health system will open retail clinics in Walgreens pharmacies in several North Carolina locations.
“Novant Health is dedicated to making health care remarkable and this strategic partnership with Walgreens will allow us to make it even more convenient, affordable and accessible,” Pam Oliver, executive vice president and president of the Novant Health Physician Network, said in a press release. “Our new clinics at Walgreens will allow patients to avoid the emergency room by expanding access to quality care for minor illnesses and injuries, and create a new avenue for Novant Health to support and care for our patients with chronic conditions.”
An example of Walgreens’ plans for its in-store clinics can be found in a partnership announced this past July. The company is teaming up with Humana to develop three new in-store Partners in Primary Care centers in pharmacies in Kansas City and Anderson, SC.
The centers mirror an ongoing collaboration to develop senior-based clinics that offer full-service primary care and pharmacy services as well as nutrition and wellness support and other Medicare-assisted care. Two such clinics are already open, and are staffed by a physician supported by registered nurse ‘care coaches,’ behavioral health specialists and social workers.
“The decision to expand our test-and-learn collaboration … reflects our ongoing commitment to provide integrated care that meets the unique health care needs of seniors in convenient locations in their neighborhoods,” Renee Buckingham, president of Humana’s Care Delivery Organization, said in a press release. “Patients of Partners in Primary Care located inside Walgreens have access to a comprehensive care team, led by board-certified primary care physicians that extends far beyond a typical nurse practitioner model often housed in retail locations.”
“We are finding that seniors appreciate not just the high quality of clinical care, but also the social interactions, the personal attention, the convenience and the enhanced coordination between their pharmacist, physician and the health guides we have on site,” added Jim OConor, senior vice president of Walgreens Neighborhood Health Destinations. “Together, we are simplifying social and clinical care in the neighborhood as we transform our stores into convenient neighborhood health destinations.”
Source: Mhealth Intelligence