Greg Wasson is bracing for the influx of 30 million Americans who will gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014.
Walgreens  is gearing up for the historic event by offering an expanded scope of health care services at its Take Care Clinics, and forming accountable care organizations (ACO) with leading physician groups in Florida, Texas and New Jersey.
“The new services, now available at most of the more than 370 Take Care Clinics located at select Walgreens, include assessment, treatment and management for chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma and others, as well as additional preventive health services,” Wasson said.
Take Care Clinic providers can evaluate, recommend and order preventive services, such as screenings or lab tests, based on a patient’s age, gender and family history.
“There is an increased focus in this country on getting more value from our health care dollars, which means there will continue to be pressure on costs,” Wasson said.
As an integral part of patient care teams under the ACOs, Walgreens’ pharmacists will help minimize costs through preventive care, Wasson explained.
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“Walgreens’ pharmacists and clinicians will work closely with primary care physicians in a collaborative program aimed at improving patient health and access to quality care, while reducing overall health care costs,” he said.
At a time when an estimated 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, Walgreens’ pharmacy business shows great promise.
“With more generic drugs coming to the market, we are able to give our customers greater access to affordable medications,” Wasson said. “Additionally, there is a strong pipeline of new biotech specialty and infused drugs.”
Walgreens recently agreed to a new, 10-year supply agreement with AmerisourceBergen for branded and generic drugs, and will take an equity stake in the drug wholesaler. Though it currently self-distributes generic products, Walgreens will turn the function over to AmerisourceBergen beginning next year.
The deal allows Walgreens and partner Alliance Boots to collaborate with AmerisourceBergen on global supply chain opportunities.
Last year, Walgreens purchased a 45% stake in Alliance Boots — an international supplier and retailer of pharmacy and HBC products — to create the first global pharmacy-led health and well-being enterprise. It plans to eventually acquire the company outright, and further leverage its strengths in loyalty programs and beauty care product development.
Walgreens has also kept busy by opening and converting more than 400 Well Experience stores, which aim to transform the traditional drug store into a new health and daily living destination that offers a range of products and services to help customers get, stay and live well. These stores offer a new, enhanced layout and revamped pharmacy, designed to encourage pharmacist/patient interaction.
“At the core of this approach is an effort to bring the pharmacist out from behind the counter so they can provide more counseling to patients, offer clinical services and answer questions,” Wasson said.
Walgreens hopes to gain a competitive edge over Amazon and other fast-growing retailers by emphasizing health-related items, instead of convenient products, at the front end.
“We anticipate a continued slow pace to the economic recovery, but we are not alone,” said Wasson. “All businesses are dealing with that. As a result competition is getting tougher, and new competitors are beginning to emerge.”
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