Walgreens Boots Alliance sees the physician inside or attached to its drugstores as key to the company’s long-term survival as a community healthcare provider.
Though two partnerships Walgreens has to strengthen the drugstore chain’s relationships with physicians remain in testing stages, company executives say they are performing well and a future expansion could be around the corner. Walgreens provided an update on its physician partnerships Wednesday during its fiscal 2020 first quarter earnings call after inquiries from analysts who in the past have wondered when these partnerships are going to start contributing financial results to the company.
One relationship involves the big health insurer Humana and its Partners in Primary Care Centers inside two Walgreens stores in the Kansas City area and a third in Anderson, South Carolina. The Walgreens-Humana Partners in Primary Care relationship is a joint venture developing senior health clinics that treat patients covered by the insurer’s Medicare Advantage plans.
“It looks very good and is operating really well (and) the relationship between the pharmacist and doctors is really close,” Walgreens co-chief operating officer Alex Gourlay told analysts Wednesday on the company’s fiscal first quarter earnings call. “We continue to feel really good about that very small, but important, test joint venture.”
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The effort is designed in part to keep people out of the more expensive hospital setting and make sure Medicare patients have their care more closely monitored by Walgreens pharmacists and physicians in Humana’s health plan networks. The two companies think they can do a better job of reaching patients who visit Walgreens retail locations and making sure they get better care upfront before they get sick.
The other partnership Walgreens has with physicians involves the Chicago-based startup VillageMD, which operates primary care clinics that have contracts with physicians. The 2,500-square-foot clinics are being located next to five Walgreens stores that will be open in the Houston area by the end of February and are called “Village Medical at Walgreens.”
“We are very, very pleased with how that’s operating already,” Gourlay said of VillageMD, which Walgreens has invested a “small” undisclosed stake in. “We see that partnership of the doctor and the pharmacist as … fundamental to the future of community health care delivery going forward and core to our model.”
Walgreens developing partnerships with doctor-staffed clinics is in contrast to rival CVS Health’s primary care services via its MinuteClinics, which are staffed by nurse practitioners. CVS is also rolling out a new “HealthHub” format that will be in 1,500 stores by the end of 2021.