Inside This Issue - Opinion
Pharmacy helps lead way in collaborative care
July 8th, 2013
Retail pharmacy has emerged as a catalyst for change. National chains, including CVS Caremark and Rite Aid, as well as such regional players as Kerr Drug, are rethinking their practice and business models in a bid to make health care more accessible, efficient and affordable.
It’s no surprise that Walgreens, the nation’s largest pharmacy operator, is in the vanguard of the movement. The company took another step forward late last month when it expanded its two-year-old collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine, a major health care system affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Dr. Jay Rosan, vice president of health innovation at Walgreens, says, “Together with Johns Hopkins Medicine we developed four pillars of the relationship — collaborate on research, develop protocols to improve care and clinical outcomes, develop educational programs for our health care professionals, and explore new models for improving patient care.”
Under the newly expanded partnership, the two entities will give tangible form to the last point, developing a Walgreens store at Science and Technology Park, adjacent to the Johns Hopkins medical campus, in East Baltimore. The outlet, which is expected to open in late November, will, in the words of Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness Kermit Crawford, serve as “a retail hub for community-based care.”
The Well Experience store will feature Walgreens’ newly redesigned pharmacy department, which brings pharmacists out from behind the counter to facilitate greater interaction with patients, a Take Care clinic and healthy food options, as well as the other products and services offered by the chain.
Physicians connected to Johns Hopkins Medicine will work closely with the nurse practitioners who staff the in-store clinic. “Our nurse practitioners will be able to utilize them whenever they need to,” says Rosan, who played a pivotal role in fostering the relationship between the two organizations. “In addition, they will review medical records to help us ensure that we’re delivering quality care.”
The East Baltimore store will make access to care — including immunizations, treatment for minor illness and injuries, and management of some chronic conditions — more convenient for Johns Hopkins students and employees, as well as residents of the surrounding area. The range of services reflects the ongoing realignment in health care delivery.
“Take Care clinics often serve as a gateway into the health care system and help bridge gaps in care by supporting provider practices,” notes Rosan, who adds that Walgreens has some 370 Take Care facilities in operation, with more on the way. “Many people are using the clinics because they are economical, the access is easier and they like the care they get. Our patient satisfaction rate is over 90%, higher than any other community-based clinic that we’re aware of. One of the reasons for that is we call every patient back within 24 to 48 hours after they’ve been in to see how they’re doing.”
Equally important, the new store will serve as a testing ground where Walgreens and Johns Hopkins strive to create what Patricia M.C. Brown, president of Johns Hopkins HealthCare, calls “the level of health care collaboration that could serve as national model.”
“We see the East Baltimore store as a laboratory,” says Rosan. “We’re forming a committee of clinicians, both from Hopkins and Walgreens, with the intention of developing new concepts that will be tested there.
“We have a lot of ideas that we want to explore. One area in particular that we’re looking at is projects and programs for patients with chronic diseases. The goal there is improving patient health and decreasing downstream medical costs.”
Walgreens’ efforts to redefine the community pharmacy model, which extend well beyond its work with Johns Hopkins, are part of the larger ferment in the industry. No two pharmacy operators view the challenges and opportunities of the moment in exactly the same way. It will be interesting to see which of them come up with the right answer.