As speculation swirls Walgreens Boots Alliance could be taken private via leveraged buyout, the retail pharmacy chain is opening the first of a coming new model of doctor-staffed primary care clinics attached to its U.S. drugstores.
On Wednesday, Walgreens and its primary care partner VillageMD, which operates primary care clinics that contract or employ physicians, opened the first of five locations in the Houston market under the “Village Medical at Walgreens” brand. The plan calls for the four remaining 2,500 square-foot Houston clinics to open in December and January 2020 next to Walgreens stores while the global retail drugstore chain examines clinic performance and a possible national rollout, Walgreens executives have said.
The VillageMD relationship with Walgreens is one of a growing number of partnerships the pharmacy chain’s executives have said will work to better coordinate patient healthcare services.
Unlike CVS “HealthHubs” that are springing up across the country and include staffing by nurse practitioners, nutritionists and other medical care providers, Walgreens is more closely aligned with physicians though its VillageMD relationship. CVS has said it has no plans to hire or employ physicians.
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But “Village Medical at Walgreens” includes physicians and the clinics provide adult care though staffing arrangements with primary care doctors, physician assistants and nurses. The clinics will also have social workers at certain locations depending on the community’s needs.
“Our goal is to provide high-quality primary care that improves patients’ health in a convenient, accessible and coordinated way,” VillageMD’s chief executive and co-founder Tim Barry said. “Our focus on quality outcomes and efficient care delivery within a value-based model will help pave the way to a more efficient healthcare system. The integration of primary care and pharmacy is yet another example of the commitment to innovation that Walgreens and VillageMD demonstrates to its customers, patients and the broader healthcare community.”
Launched in 2013, VillageMD said its more than 2,500 physicians that are either contracted or employed in eight markets across the country care for 500,000 people.
Though some observers have been skeptical of a Walgreens plan to take the global drugstore chain private, others see potential. A report earlier this month from Morningstar after speculation emerged KKR & Co has “formally approached” Walgreens to take the global drugstore chain private said partnerships playing a key role in a “going private strategy” amid “current market scrutiny and skepticism.”
“Management has been focused on leveraging scale to foster strategic partnerships to increase traffic and cross selling opportunities with a long term focus to improve coordinated care,” Morningstar said in its Nov. 11 report. “Historically the company’s strategy was based on footprint expansion, but having established a scalable infrastructure, the focus has evolved and the concentration has shifted to improving store utilization and strategically aligning with healthcare partners to address the macro trend of localized community healthcare.”