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With pharmaceutical and healthcare expenditures on the rise, a primary care shortage at hand and an expected upswing in patients diagnosed with chronic diseases, there’s no denying that the marketplace is in the midst of an evolution. Despite the challenges, Walgreens’ health-and-wellness division has positioned itself for such changes and, according to headquarter executives, has a winning strategy in place — broadening and deepening its payer relationships.
“One area that payer communities all have in common is the need to measure, deliver and improve outcomes, which encompass providing accessible, high-quality care at reduced costs,” Hal Rosenbluth, SVP and president of Walgreens Health and Wellness, told analysts during a presentation in late 2010. “If done properly, this will provide for a happier, more productive and healthier work force and member community.”
Walgreens defines payer communities as employers, health plans, health systems, PBMs, government and individual and small businesses. With about 360 retail-based Take Care Clinics stretched across 19 states, and some 368 employer-based health, pharmacy and fitness centers nationwide, Walgreens Health and Wellness offers an expanded scope of services that it says provide a solution to part — if not all — of the needs of different payer groups.
“Whether by helping hospitals reduce the cost of readmission, assisting employers in reducing pharmacy spend or providing greater access to specialty drugs and healthcare services, Walgreens has the solutions payers need for their constituents, whether at work, in their neighborhood or at home,” Rosenbluth said.
One example of this: Harrah’s Showboat casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The casino’s on-site Health and Wellness Center, operated by Walgreens’ Take Care Health Systems employer services group, opened in 2005. During its first year of operation, the facility was seeing about 26 patients a day, Emily Gaines, VP compensation, benefits and HRSS for Harrah’s Entertainment, told Drug Store News. By 2010, the center was seeing an average of 65 patients a day and was up to about 17,000 visits a year out of the facility.
Health systems also are facing their share of challenges, as many will be judged and, in some cases, reimbursed based on patient satisfaction, outcomes and the pooling of resources. Rosenbluth noted that, again, this is where Walgreens can step in. “Not a week goes by where we are not approached or approaching hospital systems with solutions, including our hospital on-site pharmacy, in-store Take Care Clinics, infusion centers, home care services and medication fulfillment choices to aid in their own micro-healthcare ecosystems,” Rosenbluth said. “As you can see by now, this is thematic in our approach to the needs of the healthcare marketplace. By helping others we, in turn, are helping ourselves.”
To better address the unique needs of each payer segment —whether it be employers, health systems, health plans, PBMs, government or individual and small businesses — Walgreens Health and Wellness recently revamped its sales and account management organization to better focus on bringing all of Walgreens’ healthcare assets to market. The revamped sales team is comprised of sales and client service executives with experience across all of the payer segments.
“Our approach is to bring all of Walgreens’ asset solutions to each segment, whether online, offline or in person,” Rosenbluth said. “Each payer has a unique set of capabilities and, combined with our solution set, they can each now go to market with a differentiated offering and, in turn, become an additional sales channel for Walgreens’ products and services. ... Now, rather than primarily being a provider of pharmacy benefit services, we have developed a much broader set of strategic and consultative relationships in the marketplace.”