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Walgreens Expands Healthcare Offerings in Key California Markets

Walgreens is opening more Health Corner locations through an agreement with Blue Shield of California. In the dedicated spaces, he can provide medical care billed to the insurer.

California Blue Shield

At Walgreens stores in California, the pharmacy chain plans to become a place where more customers go for medical care, not just prescriptions.

Walgreens Boots Alliance said Wednesday it would expand the number of stores in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas with a Health Corner, which offers medical care, through an agreement with California health insurer Blue Shield. It has opened 12 Health Corner locations in California and plans to open 8 more by the middle of the year.

Health corners are new spaces inside stores where a registered nurse or pharmacist can schedule a mammogram, screen a patient for high blood pressure or diabetes, or help install a high-tech medical device.

Dr. Sashi Moodley, clinical director of Walgreens Health, said dedicated spaces act as “connective tissue that keeps these patients on track, especially when they’re between doctor visits.”

Walgreens has approximately 9,000 stores across the country. Moodley said he was opening Health Corners in “health care deserts” with few doctors’ surgeries nearby and high levels of patients with chronic conditions like diabetes.

So far, Walgreens has opened a total of 48 Health Corner locations. That includes 12 so far in California. It has opened 36 in New Jersey, where it has an agreement with Clover Health. It plans to have over 100 Health Corner locations by the end of 2022.

Walgreens declined to share financial terms or duration of the agreements.

Expansion with insurer is part of company’s strategy to get into healthcare as companies from Amazon to Capsule steal sales of shampoos, painkillers, prescriptions and more in traditional pharmacies.

Walgreens made several acquisitions, including becoming the majority owner of VillageMD, a primary care company. VillageMD opens medical offices connected to Walgreens stores. It is also opening robotic treatment centers across the country, which helps fill prescriptions and frees up time for pharmacists to provide more medical care.

Its competitor, CVS Health, is also transforming more of its stores into healthcare destinations by adding more medical services and devices and developing a new store format called HealthHub. It owns health insurer Aetna and directs members to MinuteClinic locations, which are inside stores.

The Walgreens deal is attractive because of its many stores, DD Johnice, vice president of Blue Shield of California’s Health Transformation Lab, said in a press release. She said this will “make these resources available closer to home and provide more satisfying and convenient support for our members and their families.”

Each Health Corner location is staffed by a Walgreens pharmacist or nurse. Each includes a private room and a “tech bar”, Moodley said.

Blue Shield reimburses the billable services that the Health Advisor provides to its members. Customers who are not covered by the insurer can also obtain certain services from a Health Corner. For Blue Shield members, there is a longer list of health services available and no co-pay.

Moodley said Walgreens can reduce health care costs for insurers by interacting more frequently with patients at Health Corner locations. Nearly 80% of the American population lives within five miles of a Walgreens store. Many of his regular customers are seniors, caregivers and people juggling multiple medical conditions, which means they often see their pharmacist more than their doctor when picking up prescriptions, he said.

“You can only impact the patients you can engage and that’s a key reason why we think we’re so well positioned,” he said.

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