A new store concept from Walgreen Co. brings the future of pharmacy into the present.


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Inside This Issue - News

Walgreens tries out new ideas

September 26th, 2011

OAK PARK, Ill. – A new store concept from Walgreen Co. brings the future of pharmacy into the present.

At 17 locations in the Chicago area Walgreens is piloting a format that transforms the traditional drug store pharmacy department into a neighborhood health center — in both practice and design. On an industry level, the model conveys a key message to consumers: Pharmacists and chain drug stores are convenient providers of health care, not just prescription drugs.

At the Oak Park Walgreens, the new store format brings the pharmacist up front to facilitate interaction with pharmacy patients.

The Chicago pilot is one of several under way in key markets, including 75 stores in the Indianapolis area, as Walgreens explores ways to tailor its stores to meet local health and wellness needs.

“This is our new health and daily living store. It’s centered around how we help customers and patients live well, get well, stay well and eat well,” Nimesh Jhaveri, executive director of pharmacy and health care experience for Walgreens, said this month during a tour of a remodeled store in Oak Park, Ill.

That store and one in Wheeling, Ill., both opened in November, were the first converted to the new format. “We’re testing the concept to understand the consumer and patient feedback, and we’re also trying to understand how the new practice of pharmacy plays a part in patient care and improves patient care,” Jhaveri explained.

It’s clear to customers heading into the Oak Park store that this community pharmacy isn’t like anything they’ve seen before.

Signs along walkways to the entrance set the theme of convenient health care. One says, “Walgreens Flu Shots. Walk in anytime,” while another for the store’s Take Care Clinic reads, “Sore throat? Sinusitis? Flu? Drop in.” And signage emblazoned on the front door states, “Pharmacy, Take Care Clinic, immunization, advice + information … Walgreens Oak Park.”

Once inside the spacious store, customers’ eyes are drawn straight ahead to the pharmacy area, atop which in giant white letters against a serene blue background is the message, “Well at Walgreens. Neighborhood Health Center.” To get there it’s just a short walk through the health and beauty aids section.

The health guide station provides a service point of contact for customers at the store for a prescription or a clinic visit, as well as those seeking assistance with OTC products.

The first thing visitors see in the pharmacy area is a circular white desk staffed by what Walgreens calls a “health guide.” Equipped with an iPad, the guide helps customers select over-the-counter products, prepare and register for a clinic visit or an immunization, and accomplish other tasks.

Another key function of the health guide, Jhaveri said, is “pharmacy triage” to facilitate a visit for a new prescription, a refill or a consultation with a pharmacist. Pharmacy patients who would rather help themselves can use the adjacent touchscreen kiosks for express pickups and refills.

“The other thing you’ll notice about this pharmacy area is it doesn’t look like a drug store,” Jhaveri noted.

Indeed, the health guide station fronts a contiguous area housing the pharmacy, a Take Care Clinic, a health resource center and meeting rooms, almost creating the feeling of a doctor’s office visit rather than a trip to the drug store.

A clearly labeled prescription drop-off and pickup counter is adjoined by a partitioned “ask the pharmacist” desk for easy interaction with patients. Those preferring more privacy can meet with the pharmacist in a neighboring consultation room with a translucent sliding door.

Bordering the pharmacy is the “Health Corner,” which provides health education materials in a seating area and has a conference room for seminars, health clinics and other community events. There’s also an e-commerce station with computers for browsing Walgreens.com. Next to that is the Take Care Clinic, which has its own waiting area and examination rooms much like those in a physician’s office.

All the while, patients can look up at video screens above the health guide station to see who’s next to be served at the Rx counter and clinic. The screens also display information on other Walgreens offerings.

The themes of health and convenience are reinforced by large signage in the consumables area.

“Welcome to well at Walgreens. We believe expert health services should be as easy to access as a visit to your neighborhood store,” reads a white-lettered message on an orange wall by the clinic’s entrance, underscoring the new format’s service orientation.

“As we continue to realize the value of pharmacists and what they can do, we want to provide more of a health care focus so when patients walk in they see it’s not simply about filling their prescription. It’s really about receiving a health care service,” Jhaveri said. “We want to let people know that this is more than a drug store. This is a health care point of contact.”

The front end of the Oak Park store, meanwhile, reflects Walgreens’ ongoing efforts to enhance the shopping experience. A high ceiling, extra-wide aisles and lower gondolas create an airy feel and give customers a panoramic view of the shopping area, which is bathed in natural light, thanks to ample windows around the exterior.

Large-lettered wall signage and distinct color schemes catch shoppers’ attention and make it easy for them to locate departments. For example, there’s an enhanced beauty presentation dubbed “Beautiful,” and just past checkout is the brightly hued consumables section, under the banners “Fresh Choices” and “Eat Well. Good Food to Go.” A pair of end-caps contain fresh produce, and a freestanding refrigerated case presents an assortment of grab-and-go food. At the back of the section is a large bank of glass coolers showcasing an expanded beverage selection.

The store also has sections for durable medical equipment, diabetes care and diet/nutrition items plus a self-serve photo station. And outside are a drive-through pharmacy window, a “Web Pickup” parking spot for online orders and an electric vehicle recharging station.

The latter signals Walgreens Oak Park’s status as a “green” store. The outlet has an energy-savvy geothermal heating/cooling system and a dimming system for sales floor lighting that adjusts according to the natural light. Also, some elements, such as the flooring and lavatory sinks, are made from recycled content.

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