As the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2012 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens’ (NYSE: WAG) vision is to become America’s first choice for health and daily living. Each day, Walgreens provides more than six million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services, and advice in communities across America. Walgreens’ scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility, and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services help improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers, and the public sector. For more information, visit www.walgreens.com.
View Walgreens’ Strategies
Walgreens’ purpose is to help people “Get, Stay, and Live Well.” This is the cornerstone of how the company works with customers in every community where its pharmacies or other services are located. It is also how the company engages its more than 250,000 employees, known as team members, and retirees.
The company offers its team members a wide variety of programs designed to support a healthy lifestyle both at work and at home. That effort begins with comprehensive health benefits, supported by a wellness strategy that provides prevention, intervention, and engagement programs designed to improve overall health and wellness. The comprehensive prevention program includes initiatives such as Well Informed, an incentive-based program focused on helping participants understand their overall health status through a health risk questionnaire, measure their biometrics, and engage in healthy activities with rewards throughout the year. Other programs include an employee assistance program called Work & Life Resources, weight loss discounts, on-site clinics, a zero copay program, tobacco cessation support, and fitness discounts.
The company also offers programs that provide direct health management and advocacy or intervention efforts. These programs consist of condition and utilization management, advocacy support, coaching, and other clinically focused programs through various partners. Walgreens works hard to foster engagement among its employees, striving to achieve its goal of 100 percent engagement across the workforce. An overview of some of Walgreens’ health and wellness strategies is provided below.
Walgreens’ Strategies for Improving the Health and Wellness of Individuals
Simplified Access to our Well Informed Program
In 2013, Walgreens enhanced its Well Informed program to promote access through any mobile or stationary device. The program now consists of a simplified 22-question Health Risk Questionnaire (HRQ) easily accessed through any device. Once the HRQ and biometrics are complete, benefits-enrolled team members and their covered spouse/domestic partner receive funding into a health reimbursement account (HRA) they can use to offset deductibles and copays. The program also engages team members throughout the year through a focus on healthy activities. Many types of health-focused accomplishments are rewarded through Walgreens’ Balance® Rewards loyalty program in three periods annually up to an equivalent points value of $150 for each covered couple. The program also includes discounts on a variety of weight loss programs, tobacco cessation support (including free NRT and Chantix® Copay program.
Walgreens is also developing an online series of health-related topics available through Walgreens University, the company’s comprehensive employee learning platform.
Preventive Care Whenever and Wherever
Walgreens offers team members flu vaccines, biometric testing, and travel immunizations at no cost at its more than 8,500 pharmacies and health care clinics, as well as two on-site Healthy Living Centers. In 2012, Walgreens provided more than 100,000 flu vaccines to team members and their dependents.
Chronic Condition Management and Wellness Coaching
Through partnerships with OptumHealth and Alere, Walgreens offers a holistic approach to wellness and condition management coaching. The program engages team members and their families wherever they are on their wellness journey. The program supports care for conditions such as diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, and obesity, offers tobacco cessation options, as well as assistance or coaching for any wellness-related concerns.
Benefits and Impact
Walgreens’ strategies are effective. The company’s comprehensive health care data warehouse enables analysts to compare the health risk of those who participate in wellness programs with the health risk of those who do not. The data show that those who participate in any wellness program are able to improve their health risk score by 15-20 percent more than those who do not participate.
In addition, as noted in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, the Zero Copay program shows a four-to-one return on investment.1 The company has also demonstrated that those team members with access to on-site and in-store health clinics save the benefit plan nearly 2.5-to-one in cost over those with access who use other health care providers.
Walgreens’ workforce is geographically dispersed across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Scaling programs to cover thousands of large and small locations, as well as a broadly diverse workforce, is challenging.
To address some of these challenges, Walgreens leverages online tools and resources as well as communication through management. In 2014, Walgreens will also promote wellness champions and enable sites to receive recognition as a “Well Informed Spot” for their efforts to bring wellness to their location. Each participating site will increase its rewards opportunities and incentives.
Key Take-aways for Other Employers
While many of Walgreens’ wellness solutions exist for those covered by company benefit plans, the company also drives the wellness message to those who do not elect or are not eligible for Walgreens health coverage. Team members in these situations can still participate in the Well Informed programs health activities for Balance® Rewards points, and the tobacco cessation support.
1 Bobby Clark et al., “Evaluation of Increased Adherence and Cost Savings of an Employer Value-Based Benefits Program Targeting Generic Antihyperlipidemic and Antidiabetic Medications,” Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, Vol. 20, No. 2, February 2014. http://amcp.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=17578
In a bygone era, the corner pharmacy and neighborhood pharmacist were important contributors to the health and wellbeing of every community. With more than 70,000 health care service providers at more than 8,200 store locations, more than 400 health care clinics co-located with pharmacies, and more than 200 health system pharmacies, Walgreens today is much more than the corner pharmacy. By redefining the role of community pharmacy within the health care system, and working to meet the growing demand for health care services, this health and wellbeing company is increasingly playing a critical role in the health of the many communities it serves.
The demand for pharmacy services is increasing. Today, 17 percent of health care spending by older Americans—a cohort that is rapidly growing—is spent on medication.1 In addition, the growing demand for health care services of all kinds, and the pressure to control costs, is fueling the trend for health care professionals such as nurse practitioners and pharmacists to work at the top of their licenses. Today, these health professionals are performing preventive health tests to identify potential health risks, helping patients adhere to their medication regimens and providing medication therapy management—all key roles in helping people stay well. In fact, Walgreens is rapidly becoming a key part of the community health care delivery team, helping primary care providers, health plans, and health systems address patient needs and appropriately fill gaps in care.
Walgreens’ Strategies for Improving the Health of Communities
In its role in community health care, Walgreens is implementing innovative strategies to improve health and health care in the United States.
Rapidly Expanding Immunization Rates to Keep Americans Well
Immunizing against diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, and shingles not only keeps Americans healthy, it also reduces costs within the health care system. According to the CDC, vaccines are among the most cost-effective clinical preventive services, reducing direct health care costs by $14 billion.2 From 2001 to 2010, they also prevented 20 million cases of childhood disease and saved 42,000 children’s lives.3 Walgreens is the single largest retail provider of vaccinations in the United States, administering a total of 8.5 million vaccines in fiscal year 2013 alone. Walgreens has expanded the number of immunizations it provides through a transformative strategy that engages with federal and state health officials, invests in a medical billing solution to increase access to commercial payers, and aggressively expands to provide all 17 CDC-recommended vaccines in stores, all day, and every day, with positive results. The number of flu shots alone administered by Walgreens grew from just under one million in 2009 to nearly seven million in 2013.
Increasing Access to Care Through Convenient Health Care Clinics
Today in the United States, 62 million people have no or inadequate access to primary care.4 Walgreens’ more than 400 in-store “Healthcare Clinics” are helping to fill that gap in care for patients at lower costs. A Healthcare Clinic visit with a board-certified nurse practitioner costs four times less than an emergency room visit and is nearly half the cost of an urgent care or physician office visit.
Having traditionally provided preventive services such as physical exams or treatment for minor health problems, Walgreens is now expanding its services, introducing assessment, treatment and management for chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, and others. Access to diagnostic testing—such as lab results—facilitates evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of patients. Technology such as electronic medical records, shared billing and scheduling platforms, and integrated data helps pharmacists and clinic staff better support care and coordination with health plans, primary care providers, and other health system partners.
Benefits and Impact
Walgreens stores are located within three miles of 63 percent of the all Americans, 75 percent of all African Americans, and 78 percent of all Latinos, with more than two-thirds serving communities in medically underserved areas. Through our immunization programs and Healthcare Clinics, Walgreens is making acute, preventive, and chronic health care services available to more people in more communities across the country. The company’s pharmacies are open 365 days a year, with 1,600 open 24 hours a day. Pharmacists and nurse practitioners are available without an appointment, providing convenient access to quality care at a lower cost. By expanding access to health care services, the company is helping to meet health care’s triple aim: a better patient experience, improved patient health outcomes, at lower cost to both patients and payers.
When Walgreens began to expand into new services five years ago, the company was transforming an industry for customers unaccustomed to receiving health care services from a community pharmacy. The company set about to change that with a comprehensive legislative, regulatory, industry and consumer strategy. Through that strategy, the company worked with state regulators to ensure pharmacists could provide vaccines, trained all 26,000 pharmacists as certified immunizers, and enhanced in-store procedures to serve customers. Today, the company provides vaccines at all pharmacies and clinics and has changed the way flu shots and other vaccines are provided in the industry.
Key Take-aways for Other Employers
Walgreens is focused on advancing the role of the community pharmacy, changing the role we play in delivering health care in local communities, across the country and around the globe. The company has seized the opportunity to be a provider of care and a complete partner to its clients to ensure that patients receive quality care, in their communities, at costs they can sustain, helping them to lead healthier lives.
1 Jessie X. Fan, Deanna L. Sharpe, and Goog-Soog Hong, “Health care and prescription drug spending by seniors,” Monthly Labor Review, 2003. http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2003/03/art3full.pdf
2 Ram Koppaka, “Ten Great Public Health Achievements—United States, 2001–2010,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 20, 2011. 60(19); 619-623. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6019a5.htm
3 Ram Koppaka, “Ten Great Public Health Achievements—United States, 2001–2010,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 20, 2011. 60(19); 619-623. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6019a5.htm
4 “Access is the answer: community health centers, primary care and the future of American health care,” National Association of Community Health Centers, March 2014. http://www.nachc.com/client/PIBrief14.pdf