Expect there to be more clinical laboratory testing at pharmacies as retail pharmacy chains expand their primary care offerings
Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA) of Deerfield, Illinois, continues to expand its primary care footprint with VillageMD’s latest acquisition of Starling Physicians, a multi-specialty physicians group with 30 locations in Connecticut, according to a VillageMD news release. Walgreens is the majority owner of VillageMD, which now has more than 700 medical centers, Healthcare Dive noted.
This deal continues the trend of corporations acquiring physician practices. Already, the majority of physicians are employees, not partners in a private practice physician group. Under corporate ownership, these physician groups often decide to change their clinical laboratory providers. For that reason, managers and pathologists at local medical laboratories will want to explore how they might provide daily lab testing services to the corporate owners of these primary care clinics.
The Hartford Business Journal called VillageMD’s acquisition of Starling Physicians—which is subject to a state investigation for possible certificate-of-need requirement—one of Connecticut’s “more high-profile healthcare merger and acquisition deals in Connecticut in recent years.”
Starling Physicians locations offer full primary care services, as well as specialties that include geriatrics, endocrinology, nephrology, ophthalmology, and cardiology.
The Starling Physicians group acquisition comes just a few months after
VillageMD paid $8.9 billion for Summit Health-CityMD of Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, with primary care services in the Northeast and Oregon. Walgreens invested $3.5 billion in that transaction, a Summit Health news release noted.
These acquisitions by Walgreens/VillageMD provide opportunities for local clinical laboratories to serve the physicians in these practices, though the operations may have a different patient flow and work process than traditional family practice clinics located in medical offices around community hospitals.
“Starling shares our vision of being a physician-led model and they provide care in a compassionate and exceptional way to all the patients they serve. By integrating primary care with specialty care, we are able to optimize access to high-quality care for our patients,” said Tim Barry (above), CEO and Chair of VillageMD in the news release. “This is a natural extension of our growth in the Northeast, including our recent acquisition of Summit Health-CityMD. Together, we are transforming the way healthcare is delivered in the United States.” Clinical laboratories in these areas will want to develop a strategy for serving the physicians practicing at these non-traditional locations. (Photo copyright: The Business Journals.)
Primary Care at Retail Locations a Growing Trend
Dark Daily and its sister publication The Dark Report have reported extensively on the growing trend by pharmacy chains and other retail superstores to add primary care services to their footprint.
In “By 2027, Walgreens Wants 1,000 Primary Care Clinics,” The Dark Report covered how Walgreens had disclosed that it would spend $5.2 billion to acquire a 63% interest to become the majority owner of VillageMD. Fierce Healthcare reported that “[Walgreens] planned to open at least 600 Village Medical at Walgreens primary-care practices across the country by 2025 and 1,000 by 2027.”
In “Retail Chain Pharmacies Add CLIA-Waived Point-of-Care Blood Testing and Other Preventive Health Services to Their In-store Offerings,” we reported how eTrueNorth, a pharmacy‐based clinical laboratory services network headquartered in Mansfield, Texas, had partnered with Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Winn-Dixie, Kroger (NYSE:KR), and other retailers to offer their employees CLIA-waived point-of-care testing, preventive health services, wellness screenings, and other medical laboratory testing services through its eLabNetwork chain of retail pharmacies.
And in “Walmart’s Health and Wellness Chief Discusses Retail Giant’s Move to Healthcare/Telehealth Provider, a Step with Implications for Clinical Laboratory Testing,” Dark Daily pointed out that clinical laboratories need strategies to serve customers accessing healthcare in non-traditional settings, particularly as Walmart and the national retail pharmacy chains continue to expand the clinical services offered in their retail stores.
VillageMD is a primary care provider with same-day appointments, telehealth virtual visits, in-home care, and clinical laboratory diagnostic testing such as blood tests and urinalysis. Many VillageMD practices are located in buildings next door to Walgreens sites throughout the United States. (Photo copyright: Walgreens.)
Other Retailers Investing in Primary Care
Other retailers have recently taken deeper dives into healthcare as well.
According to Forbes, “The acquisition comes amid a flurry of acquisitions across the US for doctor practices, which are being purchased at an unprecedented pace by large retailers like Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS Health, Amazon, and Walmart. Meanwhile, medical care providers owned by health insurers like UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and Cigna’s Evernorth are also in the doctor practice bidding war.”
In “Walmart’s Health and Wellness Chief Discusses Retail Giant’s Move to Healthcare/Telehealth Provider, a Step with Implications for Clinical Laboratory Testing,” Dark Daily reported on Walmart Health’s acquisition of MeMD, which was subsequently renamed in May to Walmart Health Virtual Care.
And in February, CVS announced plans to acquire for $10.6 billion Oak Street Health, a Chicago-based primary care company with 169 medical centers across 21 states that plans to have more than 300 centers by 2026.
Do Clinical Laboratories Want Retail Customers?
The question of whether clinical laboratories should pursue retail customers is at this point academic. Consumer demand is driving the change and labs that don’t keep up may be left behind.
“The trend of putting full-service primary care clinics in retail pharmacies is a significant development for the clinical laboratory industry,” wrote Robert Michel, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Daily and The Dark Report. “These clinics will need clinical lab tests and can be expected to shift patients away from traditional medical clinic sites for two reasons—lower price and convenience—since this new generation of primary care clinics will be located around the corner from where people live and work.”
Thus, healthcare system laboratories or large reference labs may want to reach out to Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, and Walmart for test referrals. These and other large retailers are investing heavily in the belief that consumers will continue to seek convenience in their healthcare.
—Donna Marie Pocius
VillageMD Acquires Starling Physicians and Broadens its Footprint in the Northeast
Regulator Opens Inquiry into VillageMD-Starling Physicians Deal
VillageMD Acquires Summit Health-CityMD, Creating One of the Largest Independent Provider Groups in the US
Clinical Laboratory Trends: By 2027 Walgreens Wants 1,000 Primary Care Clinics
Walgreens-backed VillageMD Acquires Connecticut Medical Group
Walmart’s Health and Wellness Chief Discusses Retail Giant’s Move to Healthcare
CVS Health to Acquire Oak Street Health