Jan 11, 2016 @ 07:44 AM – Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) will shift ownership and management of more than 50 retail clinics in its stores to Chicago’s largest hospital system, escalating a strategy to coordinate healthcare by handing off operations to local providers of medical care.
Advocate Health Care, which operates a dozen hospitals and more than 250 sites of care throughout Illinois, said it will take over ownership and operations of 56 healthcare clinics in Walgreens stores throughout the Chicago area. By May, the clinics, which account for about 14 percent of the drugstore giant’s more than 400 retail health centers across the country, will be re-branded as “Advocate Clinic at Walgreens.” Last year, Walgreens signed a similar deal with Providence Health & Services in Seattle.
Walgreens said it remains committed to the retail clinic model and continues to increase healthcare services in its stores, but is open to “innovative” new partnerships. “We believe this approach will help ensure a true continuum of care for patients and their providers,” said Dr. Pat Carroll, chief medical officer for Walgreens Healthcare Clinics.
When Advocate contracts with health insurance companies and employers, health plans increasingly want providers to have a full menu of services. Retail clinics would be an extension of that, Sacks said.
It’s a different strategy than that of rival CVS Health CVS +1.06% (CVS), which owns, operates or provides management its more than 1,100 clinics in 33 states and Washington, D.C. though its MinuteClinic subsidiary. Under Walgreens deal with Advocate, nurse practitioners will become employees of Advocate.
Though Advocate executives said they have expanded hours at their doctor’s offices, medical groups and health centers into evenings and weekends, they still have patients going to expensive emergency rooms.
“We see thousands of patients in the emergency room,” Advocate chief medical officer Dr. Lee Sacks said in an interview. “Hopefully we can be more successful in directing some of them to Advocate Clinics at Walgreens.”
Such clinics staffed by nurse practitioners treat routine maladies like pink eye or colds and have become a popular consumer choice by bringing bring quick, responsive medical treatment after-hours and on weekends that avoids a long wait in an emergency room or, in some cases, a doctor’s office. Advocate sees staffing retail clinics as a way to extend its “ambulatory footprint,” Sacks said.
More coordinated care is key as the government under the Affordable Care Act and large insurers like Anthem (ANTM), Aetna (AET), UnitedHealth Group (UNH) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans move away from paying fees for service to more value-based reimbursement.