Clinical laboratories continue to adapt to servicing providers in non-traditional healthcare settings. These include freestanding urgent care centers as well as mini-clinics in retail locations. Dark Daily has covered this trend extensively in previous e-briefings.
To secure a share of this new market, national retailers, pharmacy chains, and grocery stores are increasing their health and medical service offerings and forging partnerships with other organizations, such as tech developers.
One such recent partnership involves Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (NYSE:WBA) and the Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). In January, both parties announced a joint venture to develop new healthcare solutions that will improve patient outcomes while lowering cost through research and development, funding, and technology.
“Our strategic partnership with Microsoft demonstrates our strong commitment to creating integrated, next-generation, digitally-enabled healthcare delivery solutions for our customers, transforming our stores into modern neighborhood health destinations, and expanding customer offerings,” said Stefano Pessina, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Walgreens, in a Microsoft press release.
Through this partnership, Walgreens plans to provide personalized healthcare (aka, precision medicine) by connecting its customers to pertinent health information through digital devices and in-store expert advice. The goal is to proactively engage patients in their own care to improve medication adherence, reduce emergency room visits, decrease hospital readmissions, and provide customers with lifestyle management solutions.
In addition, the two companies will share each other’s market research and work with consumers, payers, providers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers to devise solutions that improve health outcomes while lowering costs.
“[Walgreens Boot Alliance] will work with Microsoft to harness the information that exists between payers and healthcare providers to leverage, in the interest of patients and with their consent, our extraordinary network of accessible and convenient locations to
deliver new innovations, greater value, and better health outcomes in healthcare systems across the world,” Pessina said in the press release.
As part of this partnership, Walgreens will move the majority of its IT infrastructure onto Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) platform. Walgreens also will provide Microsoft 365 to more than 380,000 employees and stores located throughout the world. Microsoft 365 is a business solution which bundles Windows 10 and Office 365 with advanced security features.
Other Walgreens Collaborations That Provide Healthcare at Retail Locations
Walgreens also announced several collaborations with other companies to become more competitive and secure their share of the healthcare market.
Through its partnership with Chicago-based VillageMD, a national provider of primary care clinics, Walgreens will open five primary care clinics next to Walgreens stores in the Houston area. These clinics, called “Village Medical at Walgreens,” will offer customers comprehensive primary care services, pharmacists, nurses, and social workers.
Another collaboration involves Verily Life Sciences, a research arm of Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Google’s parent company. The agreement is for multiple projects to improve health outcomes for patients with chronic illnesses. The two companies will be exploring the use of technology, such as sensors, and software to help prevent, manage, screen, and diagnose disease with the ultimate goal of deploying those technologies at Walgreens retail locations.
“The continued rise in chronic diseases today can be costly to patients as well as to our healthcare system,” Pessina told Business Wire. “Working with Verily, we’ll look at how we can best support integrated and value-based care to meet our patients’ needs, as well as opportunities to address other chronic conditions over time.”
Service Agreements with LabCorp and Quest
In 2018, Walgreens announced a significant expansion of their collaboration with LabCorp, to increase the number of patient service center (PCS) locations within Walgreens stores. The two companies agreed to open at least 600 additional LabCorp-at-Walgreens facilities across the US over the next four years. At the time of the announcement, LabCorp operated 17 facilities at Walgreens in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and Illinois.
Along the same lines, Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX) also has opened hundreds of patient-serviced centers within various food and drug retail stores throughout the US, which Dark Daily reported in 2017.
“Healthcare is too complicated, too big, and if I can say, a little too messy,” Pessina told Digital Commerce 360. “We cannot be helpful to our patients if we don’t team up with many, many different, practically all, the players in this industry.”
CVS HealthHubs Offer Blood Testing, Health Screenings, and Other Services
To remain competitive, CVS also is trying new ways to capitalize on the growing healthcare market.
In February, CVS announced the creation of three newly designed stores in the Houston area as pilot projects. These stores, called HealthHubs, will include expanded health clinics with medical laboratories for blood testing and health screenings. They’ll also feature dieticians, respiratory specialists, and dedicated space to assist customers with the management of some chronic health conditions, as well as wellness rooms for yoga classes and health seminars.
“We’re pleased and surprised pleasantly with the ecosystem of healthcare that we’ve created here and how approachable it is, how much people are interested in it, and there are certain things we can take to all stores,” Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, CVS Health and President, CVS Pharmacy, told Becker’s Hospital Review.
With more retailers adding an ever-increasing number of healthcare services to their offerings, the number of medical laboratory tests available at those locations will likely also increase. Although this trend may boost competition for clinical laboratories, it could also benefit them by creating new opportunities to provide value-added services to their clients.