Walgreens expands its medical-care offer in the major California markets

Walgreens is opening up more health corner locations through an agreement with the Blue Shield of California. In dedicated locations, it may provide medical services that are billed to the insurer.

California Blue Shield

At Walgreens stores in California, the drugstore chain is previewing how it plans to become a place where more customers go for treatment – not just prescriptions.

The Walgreens Boots Alliance said Wednesday it would expand the number of stores in the San Francisco and Los Angeles area, including Health Corner, through a deal with California health insurer Blue Shield, which provides medical services. It has opened 12 health corner locations in California and plans to open 8 more in the middle of the year.

Health Corner is a new place inside the store where a registered nurse or pharmacist can schedule a mammogram, screen a patient for high blood pressure or diabetes, or help set up or fix a high-tech medical device.

Dr Shashi Mudley, chief clinical officer at Walgreens Health, said dedicated spaces “act as the connective tissue that keeps these patients on track, especially when they are under a doctor’s visit.”

Walgreens has about 9,000 stores across the country. Moodley said it was opening health corners in the “health care desert” where several nearby doctors’ offices and high-profile patients had chronic conditions such as diabetes.

So far, Walgreens has opened a total of 48 Health Corner locations. Of these, 12 are in California so far. It opened 36 in New Jersey, where it signed a deal with Clover Health. It plans to have more than 100 health corner locations by the end of 2022.

Walgreens declined to share the financial terms or length of the contract.

Expansion with insurers is part of the company’s strategy to push healthcare, as companies from Amazon to Capsules steal sales of shampoos, painkillers, prescriptions and more from traditional drugstores.

Walgreens, a primary care company, has made several acquisitions, including a majority ownership of VillageMD. VillageMD is opening doctor’s offices that are connected to the Walgreens store. It is also opening robot-powered fulfillment centers across the country, helping pharmacists spend time filling out prescriptions and providing more medical services.

Its competitor, CVS Health, is adding more services and medical devices, and is expanding more of its stores to healthcare destinations by expanding a new store format called Healthhub. This indicates the owners and members of the health insurer Aetna at the MinuteClinic location, which is inside the store.

DD Janice, vice president of the Health Transformation Lab at California’s Blue Shield, said in a news release that the Walgreens deal is attractive because of its many store locations. He said it would “make these resources available closer to home and provide more satisfactory and convenient support to our members and their families.”

Each health corner is staffed by a Walgreens pharmacist or a nurse. Each has a private room and a “tech bar”, Moodley said.

Blue Shield returns billing services that Health Advisor provides to its members. Customers who are not covered by the insurer can also avail selected services from Health Corner. For Blue Shield members, there is a long list of available health services and no copies

Moodley said Walgreens could reduce healthcare costs for insurers by communicating more frequently with patients in health corner locations. About 80% of the US population lives within five miles of a Walgreens store. Many of its regular customers are seniors, caregivers and people who deal with multiple medical conditions, which means they often see their pharmacist more than their doctor when retrieving a prescription, he said.

“You can only impress the patients that you can recruit and that’s an important reason why we think we’re in such a good position,” he said.

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