From offering point-of-care testing to offering a specialty medicine platform for mental health, Albertsons Companies, which operates 2,272 retail food and drug stores with 1,722 pharmacies, has emerged as a frontrunner during one of the most challenging times for pharmacies.
The Boise, Idaho-based company’s banner stores include Safeway, Albertsons, Acme, Vons, Pavilions, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Tom Thumb and United Supermarkets.
Albertsons’ focus on providing patient-centric, integrated healthcare services and its strategic partnerships aimed at eliminating healthcare accessibility barriers and improving outcomes are among the reasons Albertsons has been named the 2022 Drug Store News Pharmacy Innovator of the Year.
One of the company’s strengths, according to Omer Gajial, chief digital officer and executive vice president of health, is its frontline associates and their deep commitment to the health and well-being of the customers and communities that Albertsons serve.
One just has to take a close look at how Albertsons’ pharmacists and technicians stepped up in the unchartered waters of the COVID-19 pandemic to see this commitment. “They were on the front lines at more than 1,700 pharmacy locations providing essential and lifesaving healthcare services,” Gajial said, noting that the company’s pharmacists have administered nearly 16 million COVID-19 immunizations to patients across the country.
“During the pandemic, we were able to demonstrate our deep commitment to taking care of neighbors and communities,” added Tony DalPonte, general vice president of pharmacy. “We saw what our patients needed and responded with timely and effective solutions.”
In addition to providing access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, in many cities, Albertsons began offering pharmacy delivery to customers. “We also continued to expand affordable access to healthier meals by accepting supplemental benefits that can be used to purchase fresh produce and wellness products at our stores,” DalPonte said.
Pointing out that the pandemic accelerated technological improvements from a customer and staff experience perspective, DalPonte said, “We began building digital solutions for customers to access healthcare services during the pandemic. In this post-pandemic environment, we are continuing to invest in technology and patient services while expanding and improving our customer experience to provide quality patient-centric, integrated health care to our communities.”
Albertsons’ digital solutions include launching a new digital platform this year, which enables pharmacy customers to refill, transfer and manage their prescriptions from its unified mobile grocery app. Customers also can pay and get their prescriptions delivered through the digital platform.
Additionally, Albertsons created a scheduling tool that makes it easier for patients to book appointments and receive COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, as well as vaccines for flu, pneumonia, tetanus and shingles.
“To date, 40% of COVID-19 vaccines have been scheduled using the scheduler, which reduces customer wait and paper waste and creates more time for our frontline staff to offer care solutions,” said Srisankar Kunniyur, vice president of product management, pharmacy and health.
Telehealth services include general care, chronic care, behavioral health, children’s health and more. In addition to customized treatment plans, patients can request prescriptions to be sent electronically to any of the company’s local pharmacies.
“We understand the importance and value of patient relationships with care providers and strive to build relationships with and connect our customers to local care and providers whenever possible,” Gajial said. “Our partnerships are key to helping us provide quality healthcare services and more options that fit our patients’ needs. In addition, our partnerships help us to provide access and convenience for those in the communities we serve.”
To that end, Albertsons is partnering with a prominent local health system in Washington state to offer convenient, on-demand virtual care services. Customers can connect with a nurse practitioner within minutes to discuss possible COVID-19-related symptoms, general care, chronic care and behavioral health.
Additionally, Albertsons launched a telemedicine initiative this past summer in Washington state, for which people who have tested positive for COVID-19 can receive prescriptions for therapeutics.